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Alexandre Benois

(1870—1960)


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(b St Petersburg, 4 May 1870; d Paris, 9 Feb. 1960)

Russian painter and designer. One of the key figures of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. Like Diaghilev he studied law at the University of St Petersburg and in 1899, along with Diaghilev, Bakst, and Nouvel, founded the art magazine Mir Iskusstva (The World of Art). The magazine led to Diaghilev curating Paris exhibitions of Russian art, whose success allowed him to branch out into Russian opera and, in 1909, ballet. Benois was the first artistic director of the Ballets Russes de Diaghilev, remaining with the company until 1911 when a quarrel led to his departure. He began designing for the ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, where his productions included Sylvia (never staged), Cupid's Revenge (1902), and Le Pavillon d'Armide (1907). For the Ballets Russes he designed Les Sylphides and Le Festin (1909), Giselle (1910), Petrushka (1911), and Song of the Nightingale (1914). His career as a designer continued long after he parted from Diaghilev, and he subsequently worked with Ida Rubinstein's company (Bolero, Le Baiser de la fée, and Nocturne), the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo (Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, 1932, Graduation Ball and Nutcracker, 1940, Raymonda, 1946), and London Festival Ballet (Nutcracker and Graduation Ball, 1957). His flair as a designer was for delicate and historically accurate stage settings, although he will be remembered most for the colourful folkloric designs of Petrushka. Author of Reminiscences of the Russian Ballet (London, 1941) and Memoirs (2 vols. London, 1960 and 1964).

Subjects: Dance.


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