The Eyes

The Eyes

Friday, May 31, 2013

Pablo Picasso and Les Ballets Russes

The Ballets Russes—the most innovative dance company of the 20th century—propelled the performing arts to new heights through groundbreaking collaborations between artists, composers, choreographers, dancers, and fashion designers. Founded by Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev (1872–1929) in Paris in 1909, the company combined Russian and Western traditions with a healthy dose of modernism, thrilling and shocking audiences with its powerful fusion of choreography, music, and design.

Legendary artist Pablo Picasso was introduced to Diaghilev by Jean Cocteau in 1916, leading to his first ballet commission for Parade in 1917. Picasso artfully designed costumes and stage sets, working closely with the Ballets Russes for several years, even marrying the dancer Olga Khokhlova during this period.

The sets were modern, innovative, and new, the costumes colorful, complex, and whimsical. The sheer size of some of the costumes challenged the dancers to gracefully execute the ballet. But, the overall effect was a dazzling mix of Cubism and Picasso's playfulness. See this and so much more at Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music at the National Gallery of Art, Washington now through September 2, 2013.

See also related blog post: Giorgio de Chirico and Les Ballets Russes

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