Tradition and the Avant-Garde

Highlights of Ballets Russes Design

September 27 – January 21, 2020

Among the many transformational artistic phenomena in Europe during the early twentieth century, the fusion of modern and classical dance, music, and theatrical design that emerged from Serge Diaghilev’s famed Ballets Russes troupe (active 1909–29) stands out as a true watershed of creativity. The Wadsworth has been a prime repository of theater-set and costume designs related to the Ballets Russes since acquiring over 160 works on paper from the company’s lead dancer and producer Serge Lifar in 1933, and through later additions of costumes and other designs over the past 50 years. For this presentation—the first exhibition based on the collection in over a decade—the curators have selected 30 drawings and watercolors by renowned designers Alexandre Benois, Léon Bakst, and Natalia Goncharova, and a number of leading painters from the Parisian art scene including Jean Cocteau, André Derain, Giorgio di Chirico, Juan Gris, and Fernand Léger. Two costumes and their design drawings punctuate this special installation, which is timed to coincide with the Wadsworth’s 175th anniversary.



January 5 | Gallery Talk
January 5 | Film: Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes
January 8 | Art in Motion

Images: Fernand Léger (French, 1881–1955), Two Figures, c. 1919. Graphite and pen and ink on paper. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1933.501; Alexandre Benois (Russian, 1870–1960), Set Design for Scene 2 of Le Pavillon d’Armide, 1909. Graphite, crayon, pen, ink, tempera, machine made, laid paper. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1933.398; Michel Larionov (Russian, 1881–1964), Design for Make-up for Kikimora, before 1933. Chalk on paper. The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund, 1933.494.