Make-Up, Theatrical

Make-Up, Theatrical


the art of changing the external appearance of an actor, primarily his face, with the aid of paints, plastic and hair patches, wigs, and different hair-dos. The type of make-up in the theater depends on the artistic demands of the play, the intention of the actor, the director’s conception, and the style of the performance.

The history of make-up goes back to folk rituals and games that called for an external transformation on the part of the participants. The traditional make-up (with arbitrary design and color) of some forms of Chinese, Indian, Japanese, and other oriental theaters that arose with ancient military ritual ceremonies has been partially preserved in these theaters to the present time. Folk actors of the Middle Ages (buffoons, jugglers) colored their faces with soot or plant dyes. Primitive realistic make-up was used by participants in medieval mystery and morality plays (15th and 16th centuries). Idealized make-up was created by the theater of classicism. In the second half of the 18th century attempts were made to give make-up greater character and individual expression (for example, the make-up of the French actors H. Lekain and F. J. Talma and of the English actor D. Garrick). However, it was not until the development of realism in the theater that the art of make-up flourished. The plays of N. V. Gogol, A. N. Ostrovskii, and others demanded that the actor use make-up creatively to reveal the individual and social traits of a character. Some masters of make-up were the Russian dramatic actors V. V. Samoilov, A. P. Lenskii, and V. N. Davydov and the operatic artists F. I. Chaliapin and I. V. Ershov.

K. Stanislavsky gave make-up great significance in working on a role. In the Moscow Art Theater the art of make-up became one of the important components of the director’s conception of a performance. Since that time the make-up artist has become the creative assistant to the director and the artist. An important contribution to the development of the art of make-up in Soviet theater was made by such make-up artists as M. G. Faleev, N. M. Sorokin, P. B. Liv-shits, and I. V. Dorofeev. The artist R. D. Raugul worked out the theoretical basis for the art of make-up.

The art of make-up in motion pictures has its own specific demands. Here it is adapted to the light- and color-sensitivity of the film and to the character of the illumination. Make-up in black and white film is based on the principle of chiaroscuro, and in color cinema it takes on the character of painting. Color is used to mask physical flaws; it also acts as an important medium of expression. The close-up, by increasing the image on the screen, demands particularly careful and painstaking work from the make-up artist in color films.


Lenskii, A. P. “Zametki o mimike i grime.” In his book Stat’i,Pis’ma, Zapiski, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1950.
Stanislavsky, K. S. Moia zhizn’ v iskusstve: Sobr. soch., vol. 1.Moscow, 1954. Pages 113–25.
Livshits, P. B. Stsenicheskii grim. Leningrad-Moscow, 1939.
Raugul, R. D. Grim, 2nd ed. Leningrad-Moscow, 1947.