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    Léon Bakst and Studio (Russian, 1866-1924)
    Landscape with Shepherds, Set Design for the ballet "Daphnis et Chloé," performed at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, 1912
    Watercolor on beige paper laid on board
    31-1/2 x 51 inches (80.0 x 129.5 cm)
    Bears signature lower right: Bakst

    A la Vieille Russie, New York;
    Mr. Neal Prince and Mr. Herbert Wait Hemphil, Jr., acquired from the above, 1954;
    Mr. Neal Prince;
    The Trust of the above.

    Leon Bakst and the Modern Movement

    There was a time when fashionable people read art criticism, even succumbing to its influence. Few critics in history had the impact of Gustave Kahn (1859-1936), who explained the rapidly accelerating and splintered modern movement to a confused French society born in the 19th century but hungry for a new spirit. It was Kahn who identified Japonisme as the birthplace of modernism, and in 1925 he wrote that the greatest single impact on western decorative arts in the 20th century came from the arrival of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris (in 1909). It is hard for us to grasp the significance of an avant garde ballet troupe on any aspect of our modern life. Kahn's was a time when applied arts ranked with the fine on equal status, even on a higher level thanks to a combination of the Bauhaus curriculum and vision of a few luminaries in Diaghilev'c colorful circle .
    As Kahn chronicled the modern movement, the Russian artist Leon Bakst (1866-1924) illustrated it, through elegant books that spread his unique blend of Russian and European flair throughout Europe and the English-speaking world. Soon Paul Poiret (1879-1944), Diaghilev's extraordinary artistic director, reached into Bakst's illustrations, took his figures by the hand and led them into an entirely new world of taste we have come to know as 'Art Deco' but known then as Le Style Poiret. Using Paul Iribe (1883-1935), and Atelier Martine to expand his couture empire, Poiret provided his international clientele with fashionable accessories, furnishings, wall coverings and entire interiors seeded on the Paris stage that drew much of their inspiration from the exotic sets and costumes of Leon Bakst.

    The design for Daighilev's Daphnis et Chloé dates from Bakst's magical period, prior to the horrors of the Great War. The genie is still trapped in this painting, whose primary male figure combines the allure of a mythical ancient world with the muscular grace of Nijinsky. These are the figures Poiret led into the world of Jean Lanvin and Jacques Doucet. These too are the figures Bakst brought with him to the United States in the 1920's where, under the patronage of the US Ambassador to France and his wife, Bakst gave America a fresh palette to paint with post-war optimism. The 20th century owes a great debt to Leon Bakst, as this remarkable survivor, treasured for decades by modern tastemaker Neal Prince over his sofa in New York, reminds us. I invite you to get lost in it, and travel back to the Theatre du Chatelet of the Ballets Russes in 1912 as the music of Maurice Ravel brings the dancers to life.
    -Nick Dawes

    Bakst, Ballet and Balanchine

    Daphnis et Chloé, starring the original cast dancers Vaslav Nijinsky and Tamara Karsavina, was created during one of the most prolific periods for new ballet choreography. Serge Diaghilev, the great cultural impresario, fostered young, ambitious artists to create works for his new company, the Ballets Russes. In the past choreography had followed a very specific formula where music and décor were seen as secondary. With the abundance of great artists in Paris in the early part of the 20th century (many of them Russian emigres like Mr. Diaghilev) the stage was set to cultivate new works like never before and to raise ballet into a new art form, following a period of waning public interest. When the Ballets Russes was founded one of the goals was to not only foster great choreography, but to also bring in visual artists for costume/set design and experimental composers. Ballet, design and music would have equal footing to create a completely new artistic vision for the new century. The working trio of Michel Fokine, Leon Bakst and Maurice Ravel came together only once to create Daphnis et Chloé, each bringing their own unique style. Fokine, formerly of the Russian Imperial Ballet, was the star choreographer of the company and this work was his final creation before departing in 1912. Leon Bakst, also Russian, brought rich sumptuous designs to his sets and costumes showing the influence of his native country's folklore. Maurice Ravel, a Frenchman of Basque extraction, was noted for his inventive tonal structures and rejection of established composition rules. Bakst, Ravel and Fokine all spent time in America, which was a blank slate for new endeavors and supportive of these international artists. Eventually Fokine settled in Manhattan and opened a well-respected ballet school. In 1940, his ballet, Les Sylphides, opened the first season of American Ballet Theatre, still performing around the world from its home in New York. Fokine, as the first great choreographer of the Ballet Russes, influenced the last, George Balanchine. Mr. B, as he was known, would go on to found New York City Ballet and used all of his previous artistic influences to harken in neo-classical dance during the last half of the 20th century. This period is considered by many balletomanes to be the greatest and most fruitful era of dance in America. Without the achievements of these three men of the Ballets Russes, the achievements in American music, dance and design would not have been possible.
    -Cassandra Hutzler

    Note: Our design is related to a smaller version located in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 22.226.2. Bakst painted the 13-1/8 x 19-3/4 in. watercolor in 1911, and it was gifted to the museum by Sir Joseph Duveen in 1922. Our design's more transparent handling of the pigments and the presence of pencil grid marks suggest enlargement from a smaller work, and appear consistent with workshop assistance with or under the supervision of Bakst. Little has been written about Bakst's atelier, but we do know that both he and his assistants frequently made duplicate versions of costume and set designs in various sizes, both signed and unsigned. The signature on this work was likely added by an assistant.

    Condition Report*: There appears to be light to moderate overall paper discoloration; a half moon crease or possible repaired tear in far left figure's left leg; an approx. 1 inch abrasion with loss above left figure's raised arm; a vertical faint abrasion along lower right edge; a few scattered possibe faint hairline abrasions throughout as well as possible staining or surface soiling, however, watercolor technique makes this difficult to discern; framed under acrylic. Framed Dimensions 34.5 X 53.75 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2017
    25th Thursday
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