Serge Diaghilev caused a storm in the early 20th century with his Ballet Russes – a collective of dancers, artists and designers who shocked audiences and revolutionised the art world. Picasso, Matisse, Chanel, Jean Cocteau, Nijinsky and Stravinsky were among his collaborators.
A new exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum follows the career of Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes, featuring costumes, backdrops, photos, paintings, posters and programmes from the era.
I had a sneak preview this morning and my favourite exhibits were the spectacular costumes, many designed by famous names such as Picasso and Matisse. Some are based on traditional Russian dress, while others are weird and wacky, even by today’s standards, and must have constrained the dancers’ movements considerably.
Another highlight was the enormous back cloth for The Firebird, which is the largest object in the V&A. There’s also a massive front cloth based on the Picasso painting Two Women Running on the Beach.
The Ballet Russes show is a must for art and dance fans. One word of warning: allow a few hours to explore the exhibition as there’s loads to see.
Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballet Russes 1909-1929 is at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 25 September to 9 January