The Ballets Russes and the Parisian Avant-Garde

in Experiment
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“The Ballets Russes and the Parisian Avant-Garde” deals with the complex relationship between Diaghalev and the members of the Parisian avant-garde he commissioned to design sets and costumes for his productions after World War I. Despite their previous aesthetic radicalism, such artists as Gris and Derain were obliged to rein in their vanguard originality and produce work of surprising conservatism, at the urging of the impresario. Matisse attempted greater originality, but in an unsuccessful ballet. The only really avant-garde production sponsored by Diaghalev after the war was Parade, in which such luminaries as Picasso, Satie and Cocteau played a leading role. Yet ultimately, it was not Diaghalev but Rolf de Mare’s Ballet Suedois that created the most experimental productions involving dance: Relache and Entr’acte. Yet, in experimenting with new forms, de Mare, in effect, abandoned ballet for different forms of expression relying on cinematic techniques rather than classical dance.

The Ballets Russes and the Parisian Avant-Garde

in Experiment



  • 2)

    Nakov p. 22.

  • 4)

    Schouvaloff p. 148.

  • 6)

    Ibid. p. 183.

  • 10)

    Schouvaloff p. 217.

  • 12)

    Quoted in Schouvaloff p. 217.

  • 13)

    Quoted in Schouvaloff p. 218.

  • 20)

    See Deborah Menaker RothschildPicasso’s “Parade”: From Street to Stage (London: Sotheby’s Publications1991); Lynn Garafola Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (New York: Oxford University Press 1989); Jeffrey Weiss Popular Culture of Modern Art: Picasso Duchamp and Avant Gardism (New Haven: Yale University Press 1994) and Jane Pritchard ed. Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929 (London: V&A Publishing 2010).

  • 21)

    Menaker Rothschild p. 88.

  • 22)

    Ibid. p. 70.

  • 31)

    Camfield p. 132.

  • 32)

    Ibid. p. 135.

  • 35)

    Lynn Garafola“Rivals for the New: The Ballets Suédois and the Ballets Russes,” in Paris Modern: The Swedish Ballet 1920-1925p. 82.


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    Alexandra Exter: Lighting Design for a Tragedy, ca. 1927. Gouache. Signed lower right in French “A Exter.” 20-1/4 x 20 in., 51.5 x 51 cm. Formerly in the collection of Nina and Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky; now with the Konstantinovsky Foundation, St. Petersburg.
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    Juan Gris: Design for the Front Cloth: Offfrandes à la Bergère, probably for the setting from Tentation de la Bergère or L’amour, 1923, graphite, tempera and/or watercolor, gold and silver paint, clear medium on paper. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, 1933.481. Photographic credit: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY.
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    Henri Matisse: Costume for the Chamberlain’s Robe in Le Chant du Rossignol. Music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Léonide Massine, performed by Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Paris, 1920, hand-painted textile, Gift of Rena (Fisch) and Robert Lewin, London, B82.71.2, collection: The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photograph © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. © 2011 Succession H. Matisse/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
  • View in gallery
    Pablo Picasso: Costume design for the Chinese Conjuror, 1917 Line block print on paper after the original drawing 26.2 x 16.5 (image); 27.4 x 22.5 (sheet). Private collection.
  • View in gallery
    Réné Clair: Film still from Entr’acte, 1924, 17 min. Film in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. This image is courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art.
  • View in gallery
    Boston Ballet in the fourth tableau of Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces, The Wang Theatre, New York, May 2006.
  • View in gallery
    Boston Ballet’s Karine Seneca as the Bride in Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces, The Wang Theatre, New York, May 2006.
  • View in gallery
    Boston Ballet’s Roman Rykine as the Groom in Bronislava Nijinska’s Les Noces, The Wang Theatre, New York, May, 2006.


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