(Lev Samoilovich Rozenberg). Born Jan. 27 (Feb. 8), 1866, in Grodno; died Dec. 27, 1924, in Paris. Russian painter, graphic artist, and costume and set designer. He studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Art (1883–87) and in Paris (from 1893).
Bakst was a member of the Mir iskusstva (World of Art) society. His illustrations for the magazines Mir iskusstva, Zolotoe runo (The Golden Fleece), and Apollon and easel paintings (Horror Antiquus,1908, Russian Museum, Leningrad) were strongly influenced by art nouveau. After 1909, he lived primarily in Paris.
Bakst was one of the leading designers of the Russian Season Abroad and of the private theatrical enterprises of S. P. Diaghilev (the ballets Cleopatra,1909; The Firebird,1910; Narcissus,1911; Daphnis and Chloe,1912; and others). In his theatrical work, he strove before all else to communicate “the spirit of the era,” frequently leaning toward a mystical interpretation. He was especially attracted to ancient Greece of the archaic period and to the East. Stylizing motifs of ancient art and exotic eastern clothing, Bakst created exquisitely decorative, often fantastic costumes, which were one of the most important elements of colorful theater spectacles. In the first 20 years of the 20th century, Bakst worked in the theaters of Paris, London, New York, Brussels, and Rome.
REFERENCESAlexandre, A., and J. Cocteau. L’art décoratifde Léon Bakst. Paris, 1913.
Lewinson, A. The Story of Leon Bakst’s Life. Berlin, 1922.