The Art of Léon Bakst


Léon Bakst (1866-1924), born Lev Rosenberg, was a Russian painter and designer for the theatre who is associated with the Golden Age of Illustration.


The Léon Bakst Collection at Spirit of the Ages includes art images from some of Bakst's seminal work. As a valuable reference resource, options are also provided for purchasing a range of gifts, including reproduction prints, posters and greeting cards.


His formal training was undertaken at the St Petersburg Academy of Arts, during which time he also worked part-time as a book illustrator.


At the time of his first exhibition in 1889, he took the pseudonym Léon Bakst - a name derived from a combination of his first name, Lev, and his grandmother's maiden name, Baxter.


A survey of Bakst's career was provided by Gerald Siordet in The International Studio (1913) - a portion of his comments follow:


Above, we show a vintage

photograph of Léon Bakst


Art, as he says, is a plaything, and an artist's work will be good only when it has been great

fun doing it. Here is the real secret of his appeal. Grant him whatever fine and far-fetched

qualities you will - and there is plenty enough to his credit - these designs of his charm

because, behind all the intervening processes of knowledge and calculation, they reveal the

enjoyment of the child, exultant in the possession of paint-box and brushes, greatly daring to

draw monsters, or princesses, or cities of an enchanted world.


That they should thus keep the freshness and sparkle of spontaneity is the more remarkable

when one considers the amount of solid learning that has gone to the designing of such a

series of costumes as enrich the ballets of Schéhérazade, Le Dieu Bleu, Hélène de Sparte, or

Signor d'Annunzio's mediævalist experiments, S Sebastien and Pisanelle. Bakst is a real student,

a genuine scholar in costume. His designs are no mere archæological resuscitations of the

wardrobes of the past; neither are they the summary, impressionistic stock-in-trade of the

quick-change artist. He is, indeed, a kind of bright, particular chameleon. He will settle into

the strange, distorted glamour of the East, or the simple graces of archaic Greece, or the

fierce, gay medley of the Middle Ages, and presently will bring you forth not dresses merely

but personages who move with ease and certainty each in his own time, and yet retain the

stamp of their creator.


This particular receptivity of mind, which at the same time recreates and rearranges, is of all

qualities that most fitted to adapt itself to the art of the theatre, in which scenery and costume

are most telling only when they make no attempt to conceal, rather welcome, the presence

of conscious recognised artifice - in fact, when the art that makes them is considered as itself

a plaything. It is hardly possible to find a single design by Bakst which is not from this point

of view "amusing".


We invite you to take the time to peruse the wonderful artwork from Léon Bakst that is included in the Collection - to view images from any one of Bakst's suites or paintings listed below, simply 'click' on the hyperlinks embedded within the titles and the images.




Serge de Diaghileff's Ballet Russe

16 images