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 Leon Bakst


Born:   10 May 1866
Deceased:   28 December 1924

Russian artist, set designer, book illustrator

      

Leon Bakst was a famous Russian artist, set designer, book illustrator, master of easel painting and stage graphic art, one of the most notable figures of the the Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) group and Serge Diaghilev’s ballet and art projects.
Lev (Leib) Samoilovich Rosenberg was born on February 8 (on January 27), 1866 into a poor Jewish family of a Talmudic scholar in Grodno. After finishing grammar school he was a non-matriculated student at the Academy of Arts, while making his living with book illustrations.
At his very first exhibition that was held in 1889 the young artist took the pseudonym Leon Bakst after the shortened surname of his grandmother (Bakstep). In the early 1890s Leon Bakst was exhibited in the Association of Aquarellists. From 1893 to 1897 he lived in Paris and frequented St. Petersburg. From the mid 1890s Leon Bakst joined a circle of writers and artists who gathered around Serge Diaghilev and Alexandre Benois. Later it became the widely known Mir Iskusstva (World of Art) movement. It nurtured the same name remarkable journal, which was cofounded in 1898 by Leon Bakst and Diaghilev as the editor-in-chief. Bakst’ graphic art published in this journal gained him fame.
He was also engaged in easel painting and created portraits of some outstanding persons, including the artist Philip Malyavin (1899), philosopher Vassily Rozanov (1901), writer Andrey Bely (1905), and the poetess Zinaida Gippius (1906). Along with that he taught painting to children of the grand duke Vladimir. Nicholas II placed him an order for the painting Meeting Russian Seamen in 1902 in Paris.
In 1898 Leon Bakst displayed his works at The First Exhibition of Russian and Finnish Artists organized by Serge Diaghilev; at the exhibitions of World of Art, at the Secession exhibition in Munich, exhibitions of the Russian Artists’ Artel, and so on.
In 1903 Leon Bakst adopted Lutheranism for the sake of marrying Lyubov Gritsenko, the daughter of the famous art collector Peter Tretyakov (founder of the Tretyakov Gallery).
During the revolution of 1905 Leon Bakst contributed for the Russian satirical journals Zhupel (Bugbear), Infernal Mail, Satyricon, and then the art magazine Apollo.
From 1907 Leon Bakst mostly lived in Paris and worked on stage sceneries, the field in which he made a true revolution. He created sceneries for Greek tragedies, and in 1908 became history as the author of stage design for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (Cleopatra in 1909, Shakherezada in 1910, Carnival in 1910, Narcissus in 1911, Daphnis and Chloe in 1912).
In 1910 Leon Bakst divorced Lyubov Gritsenko and returned to Judaism. All this time he lived in Europe as, being a Jew, he had no residence permit out of the pale.
During his visits to St. Petersburg Leon Bakst taught at Zvantseva's School. Marc Chagall was one of his art students in 1908 — 1910, but they broke up in 1910. The senior forbade Marc Chagall to go to Paris since he was afraid it would do harm to Chagall's art, and financially lead the young artist to starvation (Chagall did not draw theatrical sceneries). Nevertheless Marc Chagall went for it and found his own painting manner.
Leon Bakst was elected a member of the Academy of Arts in 1914. In 1918 he cut ties with Diaghilev and Ballets Russes.
The artist died of fluid lungs on December 27, 1924 in Paris.
Leon Bakst’ nephew (the son of his sister Roza Samuilovna Rosenberg) is the Soviet historian Albert Zakharovich Manfred.
Leon Bakst remains most notable for his works for the Russian Seasons (Ballets Russes) and for Ida Rubenstein’s troupe.

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Tags: Russian Artists World of Art Leon Bakst   








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