Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music

May 12 – October 6, 2013

East Building Mezzanine

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-010_ppt.jpg

    Aleksandr Golovin, Russian, 1863–1930, Costume worn by Fyodor Chaliapin in title role in the Coronation scene from Boris Godunov, c. 1908, silk and metal thread, glass beads, imitation pearls, metal, painted silk lining, replacement fur, V&A, London © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-012_ppt.jpg

    Alexandre Benois, Russian, 1870–1960, Costume worn by Lydia Lopokova as a Sylph from Les Sylphides, c. 1916, silk and cotton net, with metal armature for the wings, V&A, London, Cyril Beaumont Bequest © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-272_ppt.jpg

    Alexandre Benois, Russian, 1870–1960, Design for the front cloth from Petrushka (Copenhagen revival), 1925, pen, ink, and tempera on paper, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-030_ppt.jpg

    Léon Bakst, Russian, 1866–1924, Costume for a Brigand from Daphnis and Chloe, 1912, wool, cotton, and paint, V&A, London © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-043_ppt.jpg

    Léon Bakst, Russian, 1866–1924, Costume design for Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun from The Afternoon of a Faun, 1912, graphite, tempera, and gold paint on paper, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-230_ppt.jpg

    Amedeo Modigliani, Italian, 1884–1920, Léon Bakst, 1917, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Chester Dale Collection

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-190_ppt.jpg

    Eugène Druet, French, 1868–1917, Vaslav Nijinsky in Siamese Dance from The Orientals, 1910, gelatin silver print, Lent by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Gift of The Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-237_ppt.jpg

    Jacques‑Émile Blanche, French, 1861–1942, Vaslav Nijinsky in Siamese Dance, c. 1910, oil on canvas, Collection of Ann and Gordon Getty, San Francisco

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/RoerichGroup.jpg

    Nicholas Roerich, Russian, 1874–1947, Costumes for two Maidens and an Elder from The Rite of Spring, 1913, wool, leather, metal belts and necklace, napped cotton, wood, and fur, V&A, London © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-091_ppt.jpg

    Mikhail Larionov, Russian, 1881–1964, Costume for the Buffoon's Wife from The Tale of the Buffoon, 1921, cane‑stiffened felt and cotton, V&A, London © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-183_ppt.jpg

    Sonia Delaunay, French, 1885–1979, Costume for title role from Cleopatra, 1918, silk, sequins, mirror, and beads, wool yarn, metallic thread braid, lamé, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Costume Council Fund © Pracusa 2012003; Digital Image © 2013 Museum Associates / LACMA / Licensed by Art Resource, NY

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-079_ppt.jpg

    Pablo Picasso, Spanish, 1881–1973, Costume for the Chinese Conjuror from Parade, c. 1917, silk satin fabric with silver tissue and black thread, cotton hat with woolen pigtail, V&A, London © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-094_ppt.jpg

    Henri Matisse, French, 1869–1954, Costume for a Mandarin from The Song of the Nightingale, 1920, satin, paint, and tinsel, V&A, London © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/3413-107_ppt.jpg

    Giorgio de Chirico, Italian, 1888–1978, Set design (scene 2) for The Ball, 1929, graphite and tempera on paper, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund

  • Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929 When Art Danced with Music /content/dam/ngaweb/features/slideshows/Diaghilev/ChanelGroup_approved_0708.jpg

    Coco Chanel, French, 1883–1971, Costumes for La Perlouse and a Gigolo from The Blue Train, 1924, knitted wool and wool, V&A, London © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

THIS EXHIBITION IS NO LONGER ON VIEW AT THE NATIONAL GALLERY.

Overview: 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. Showcasing more than 130 original costumes, set designs, paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs, and posters, Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes also incorporates film clips in a theatrical multimedia installation. Adapted from the exhibition conceived by and first shown at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 2010, the presentation in Washington draws upon that rich survey, including some 80 works from the V&A’s renowned collection of dance artifacts, and adds about 50 objects, generously offered by more than 20 lenders, private and public.

Diaghilev’s success depended primarily on his ability to identify and bring together the most creative artists of his day. Recognizing the vitality of contemporary art, he called upon Léon Bakst, Natalia Goncharova, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and Giorgio de Chirico, among others, to create dynamic set designs and exquisitely decorated costumes that shared a unified aesthetic. They in turn brought the most important artistic developments of the early 20th century—including futurism, cubism, and surrealism—to the ballet stage. Diaghilev also commissioned ballet scores from innovative composers such as Igor Stravinsky, Sergei Prokofiev, and Erik Satie, and featured dancers noted for their technical brio, making the company a breeding ground for musical and choreographic innovation: Mikhail Fokine, Vaslav Nijinsky, Léonide Massine, Bronislava Nijinska, and George Balanchine all dramatically expanded the vocabulary of movement. The troupe’s productions—notably the infamous Rite of Spring, now celebrating its 100th anniversary—instigated a revolution in dance. This exhibition seeks to highlight these and other connections fostered by Diaghilev.

Organization: Organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Sponsor: The exhibition is made possible by generous grants from ExxonMobil and Rosneft. Adrienne Arsht also provided leadership support. Additional funding is kindly given by Sally Engelhard Pingree and The Charles Engelhard Foundation, Jacqueline B. Mars, Leonard and Elaine Silverstein, and The Exhibition Circle of the National Gallery of Art. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Passes: Passes are not required for this exhibition.

Catalog: Jane Pritchard and Geoffrey Marsh, Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929, V & A Publishing, London, 2013.

Image: Léon Bakst, costume design for Vaslav Nijinsky as the Faun, 1912, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, The Ella Gallup Sumner and Mary Catlin Sumner Collection Fund

Exhibition Film

Produced by the department of exhibition programs and narrated by Tilda Swinton, this film explores Serge Diaghilev's Russian roots, his genius for bringing together avant-garde composers, dancers, painters, and designers, and the legacy of the Ballets Russes. The film includes highlights from Ballets Russes productions recreated by major dance companies in the United States and Europe.

Monday–Saturday at 12:00–5:00
Sunday at 12:00–6:00

East Building Small Auditorium
with minor exceptions

Weekends at 11:30
East Building Auditorium

with minor exceptions

Made possible by the HRH Foundation

Watch excerpt online

Exhibition Brochure

This digital companion to the stunning exhibition Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes: When Art Danced with Music, 1909–1929 offers full-color reproductions of front and back cloths, set designs, and costumes featured in the show. The brochure further highlights the many artists who contributed to the Ballets Russes’ success, including additional photographs and biographical information about Diaghilev himself, as well as various choreographers, designers, and composers. (Interactive features available with Acrobat Reader, Version 9 or higher.)

Exhibition Brochure (PDF, 2.2Mb)