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Oliver Messel

(1904—1978) artist and stage designer


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(b Cuckfield, 13 Jan. 1905; d Bridgetown, Barbados, 13 Jul. 1978)

British painter and stage designer. He studied art at the Slade School in London and designed for opera and ballet throughout the 1930s and 1940s, at Sadler's Wells, Covent Garden, and Glyndebourne. He designed Lichine's Francesca da Rimini (de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, 1937), Helpmann's Comus (Sadler's Wells Ballet, 1942), and—most importantly—the Sergeyev–Ashton–de Valois 1946 Sadler's Wells Ballet staging of Sleeping Beauty, which re-opened the Royal Opera House after the Second World War. His last ballet was Ashton's Homage to the Queen (1953). His style was spectacularly scaled but lyrical, with a strong period feel. He also worked as a designer on several films, including The Scarlet Pimpernel (1935), Romeo and Juliet (1936), The Thief of Baghdad (1940), The Winslow Boy (1948), and Suddenly Last Summer (1960). Author of Stage Designs and Costumes (London, 1934).

Subjects: Theatre — Dance.


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