Dance, Music and Theatre

Serge Diaghilev, 1872-1929, and Aleksandr Benois, 1870-1960, editors.
Миръ искусства.
[The World of Art.]

Saint Petersburg: M. K. Tenisheva and S. I. Mamontov, 1899-1904.

After a trip abroad in 1896 in which he made many art purchases, Diaghilev sought a position working with art collections and ended up curating two art exhibits that became the beginning of the World of Art Exhibition Society. In the midst of this work Diaghilev began investigating the publication of a thick journal devoted to avant-garde art with Alexander Benois as coeditor. With financial backing from Princess Tenisheva, who sponsored the Talashkino workshop, and Savva Mamontov, who sponsored the Abramtsevo workshop, the journal World of Art appeared. It was intended to be about all the arts, and to reflect artistic quality itself in its paper, typeface, and illustrations. Illustrations were provided at first by Diaghilev’s immediate colleagues, such as Konstantin Korovin and Léon Bakst. Later the Talashkino and Abramtsevo workshops, where artists worked individually and collaboratively, produced a “second generation” of World of Art contributors.

Each issue of World of Art featured at least one artist and contained reproductions of works, as well as photographs of exhibits. Other articles contained news reports, criticism, and scholarship. All the arts and crafts were covered, both in Russia and in major European cities such as Paris and Munich where Russian colleagues resided. “Letter from Munich,” for example, was written by Wassily Kandinsky, who had set up residence in Germany.

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First page of the section Art, containing the article by Vasilii L’vovich Rozanov, 1856-1919, “About Ancient Egyptian Beauty.”
The World of Art, 1901, No. 4.

Rozanov was a polemicist, but his arguments were so controversial that he was labelled a nihilist by some, and a Nietzschean or anarchist by others. He was thrown out of the Symbolist Religious and Philosophical Society because of his virulent anti-Semitic remarks, and his statements concerning the Greek Orthodox Church and the role of sex in life were, for the times, shocking. Nonetheless, some of his disciplined thinking showed great insight and was valued.


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Designs for textiles by N. Davydova.
The World of Art, 1899, No. 5.

Davydova also created designs utilizing embroidery at Abramtsevo.


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Design for rug by Aleksandr IAkovlevich Golovin, 1863-1930.
The World of Art, 1899, No. 10.

Golovin worked in Talashkino and Abramtsevo, and also in Savva Mamontov’s Private Opera productions in his home. Mamontov had artists from Abramtsevo plan and create set designs, rather than using technicians. The Imperial Theaters followed suit and when Diaghilev took Ballets russes to Europe, theaters there also adopted the practice of treating set design as art.


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Photographs of “The World of Art” exhibit in Saint Petersburg,
The World of Art, 1901, No. 4.


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Article entitled “Art” by Serge Diaghilev
The World of Art, 1899, No. 1.

At the turn of the century Diaghilev was primarily a curator of exhibits and editor of The World of Art. Although he did not see himself as a writer, he would occasionally write articles. This one explains his belief that the product of art is what results from the spiritual and material work invested in it by the artist. Diaghilev’s historical significance lies in his work as an impresario and from his vision of what unfettered creativity could produce. Both of these showed themselves in World of Art, and later took on international significance when he founded Ballets russes and took it to Europe and the United States.


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Chapter 2 of a serialized essay by Dmitrii Sergeevich Merezhkovskii, 1865-1941
“Dostoevsky and Napoleon—the Antichrist.”
The World of Art, 1901, No. 4.

Merezhkovskii wrote poetry and novels and also devoted a great deal of thought toward applying to great literature his own version of Symbolist scholarship based on the juxtaposition of the physical and the spiritual. After the turn of the century he espoused the establishment of a Christian (Orthodox) state, but his dream was shattered by Bloody Sunday and the events of 1905.


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Sergei Konstantinovich Makovskii, 1877-1962, editor.

Petrograd: S.K. Makovskii, April/May, 1915, No. 4-5.

Apollo was founded by Aleksandr Benois, the more conservative coeditor of The World of Art, and was more scholarly and less avant-garde than the earlier journal. It also contained articles on theater and music as well as on the visual arts.


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Color reproduction of “Battle at Kerzhents” by Nikolai Konstantinovich Rerikh, 1874-1947.
A black-and-white reproduction was published in the above issue of Apollo.

Nikolai Rerikh was a book illustrator, painter, set and costume designer, and philosopher. He became an artist after first studying archaeology, and combined his interests by producing art about medieval Russia and incorporating elements of Russian folk art and crafts. When he designed costumes and sets for Ballets russes, he took a holistic approach, ensuring that even the weave of silk fabric met with his approval.


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Дом искусств .
[House of Arts.]

Peterburg: 1921.

Most artists found it difficult to survive in the first few years after the Revolution, since few had means of support other than their art. The government provided assistance by establishing positions for them as translators, editors, and copy readers. It also set up the House of Arts, which provided beds, dining facilities, and a library specifically for artists, and was the namesake for this journal. The issue shown was dedicated to the memory of Symbolist poet Aleksandr Blok. Displayed is his poem “To the Pushkin House,” illustrated by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky. The poem is dated twice, both in the old style (pre-revolutionary) and new (post-revolutionary) calendars.