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Sold at Auction: Léon Bakst

Alias:Léon Nikolajewitsch BakstLev Samojlovič BakstLéon BakstLjow Samoilowitsch RosenbergLev Samojlovič RozenbergLev Schmule Rozenberg


Léon Bakst (Russian: Leon (Lev) Nikolaevich Bakst) – born as Leyb-Khaim Izrailevich (later Samoylovich) Rosenberg, (27 January (8 February) 1866[1][2] – 28 December 1924) was a Russian painter and scene and costume designer of Belarusian origin. He was a member of the Sergei Diaghilev circle and the Ballets Russes, for which he designed exotic, richly coloured sets and costumes.[3] He designed the décor for such productions as "Carnaval" (1910), "Spectre de la rose" (1911), "Daphnis and Chloe" (1912), "The Sleeping Princess" (1921) and others.

Leyb-Khaim Izrailevich (later Samoylovich) Rosenberg was born in Grodno, into a middle-class Jewish family. As his grandfather was an exceptional tailor, the Tsar gave him a very good position, and he had a huge and wonderful house in Saint Petersburg.[5] Later, when Leyb's parents moved to the capital, the boy Leyb would visit his grandfather's house every Saturday. He said that he had been very impressed as a youth by that house, always returning with pleasure. At the young age of twelve, Lejb won a drawing contest and decided to become a painter. However, the parents disapproved of it and even threw away his paints.[6]

In several years the parents divorced and started new families, it became impossible to live with a step-mother, so the four siblings separated and rented their own place. As the eldest, Lejb was in charge of two sisters and brother, he 'took all kinds of painting work'. After graduating from gymnasium, he studied at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts as a noncredit student, because he had failed the entry. He also worked part-time as a book illustrator, gaining admission into the Imperial Academy in 1883. At the time of his first exhibition (1889) he took the surname of Bakst, though the origin of the pseudonym is still unclear. There are at least three versions, according to the main one, his mother's grandmother had maiden name Bakster.[7] Alexander Benoius, a life-long friend of Leon, recalled that 'Leo gave a prolonged and confusing explanation that the surname was taken after some of distant relatives'. At the beginning of the 1890s, Bakst exhibited his works with the Society of Watercolourists.[6]

At the beginning of the 1890s, Bakst exhibited his works with the Society of Watercolourists.[6] From 1893 to 1897 he lived in Paris, where he studied at the Académie Julian.[8] He still often visited Saint Petersburg. After the mid-1890s, Bakst became a member of the circle of writers and artists formed by Sergei Diaghilev and Alexandre Benois,[9] who in 1899 founded the influential periodical Mir iskusstva, meaning "World of Art". His graphics for this publication brought him fame.

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