The Times and Works of Léon Bakst
Painting, Drawings, Photographies
The exhibition, The Times and Works of Léon Bakst, is dedicated to outstanding painter, stage designer, book illustrator, costume artist, designer and teacher Léon Bakst’s 150th birthday, and its goal is to reveal the versatility of this shining personality to the maximum extent.

His works, especially those which are connected with the theatre, inspired the modernists of Western Europe in the first decades of the 20th century and created a new visual style for the stage. The overall era of change and, one would hope, the atmosphere of the exhibition too, is aptly described by Bakst’s contemporary, writer and philosopher Vyacheslav Ivanov (Вячеслав Иванов, 1866–1949) in a letter: “True cultural pathos is the renunciation of objective standards, giving priority to the criteria of his own personal style”.


Léon Bakst (Лев Бакст, 1866–1924) was born in Grodno, Belarus, but spent his creative life in two world capitals — Saint Petersburg and Paris. An artist with a markedly individual style and refined taste, he became one of the creators of the fashion of orientalism and a cultivator of exotic elegance in Europe in the early 20th century. For many years from 1909, he embodied, in life, French Romanticist poet Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier’s (1811–1872) concept of “dance as a moving painting” in his creation of the scenography for the stage and costumes for Sergei Diaghilev’s (Сергей Дягилев, 1872–1929) troupe Ballets Russes’ (Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet) performances.


Certainly, the evolution of Bakst’s creative work, his aesthetic views and the development of his formal techniques took place in the context of his era, and are closely connected with the activities of his contemporaries in art. They were his friends and colleagues from the World of Art (Mir iskusstva or Мир искусства) artists’ association: Alexandre Benois (Александр Бенуа, 1870–1960), Mikhail Vrubel (Михаил Врубель, 1856–1910), Mstislav Dobuzhinsky (Мстислав Добужинский, 1875–1957), Boris Kustodiev (Борис Кустодиев, 1878–1927) and others. Our own Vilhelms Purvītis (1872–1945) and Johans Valters (1869–1932) as well.


The exhibition is an international cooperation project which commenced in Minsk, continued in Vilnius and finishes in Riga.



Daiga Upeniece, Head of the Art Museum RIGA BOURSE



Vita Birzaka, Exhibition Curator at the Art Museum RIGA BOURSE







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