It has been a century since these leaders in innovation were at their primes; each bringing forward artistic rebellion in their differing art forms.
Travelling to the remote corners of the world, Gauguin was worldly-wise, cultured and cultivated; having travelled and lived in South America – Peru – for the first four years of his life, the country whose colourful imagery was to influence his later works. One of his early works from Martinique, Tahitian Landscape, 1893 for example boasts an intense symphony rich in colour and a non-naturalistic palette. Coloured in vivid greens, mauves, yellows and oranges; the simplified shapes and keen colour portray his idyllic landscape, dissimilar to the pictographic terrain of Pont-Aven, with its rolling hills and an atmosphere seemingly untouched by time.
|'Tahitian Landscape', 1893|
|'Yellow Christ', 1889|
|'Nevermore O Tahiti', 1897|
Diaghilev the patron, the dictator, the innovator founded and united the art forms in his Ballets Russes and the greatest artistic minds of the 20th century. His undisputed greatest achievement was his dance company the Ballets Russes, radically transforming the nature of ballet, its subject matter, choreographic principles, music, set design, costume, nurturing some of the greatest dancers, and bringing together forward looking composers. The Ballet Russes seemed immersed, obsessed even in experimenting, exploring new potentials and horizons for ballet.
The exhibition takes the time to consider individuals and related collections. A lofty curtain hangs conspicuously, spanning from the ceiling to the floor; the towering coral-rose female characters, caught in motion serve as hints to those to look up in awe of the magnitude of the stage. This was the work of Picasso, who painted the drop curtain for the ballet Le Train Bleu from 1924. This is a new horizon Picasso, who by then was deep in the realm of cubism, diverting into the playfulness of decor. Le Train Bleu also saw the works of Chanel, having the dancers sporting shift-dress-like bathing suits.
|The curtain for Le Train Bleu, 1924|
|Costumes for Le Train Bleu, by Coco Chanel|
A large section focuses on Nijinsky, to which the Ballets Russes had to thank for his unusually pioneering choreography. A video containing extracts from Pina Bausch’s choreography to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring saw a new urgency in the dancing; the female solo pulling herself across the stage, the sheer tension on her face, while idle individuals around her suddenly come to life, equating their actions to the sharp bends in the music.
Costume design discovered new spheres as the traditionally tight fitting costumes of ballet were replaced by the likes of looser, heavier and decor elaborated attire influenced and infusing the old and new together; 18th century luxury and 20th century novelty. Surely, the weight of luxury-encrusted costumes would hinder the dancers? That may have been, but there is no indication of such problem when viewing the photographs of Nijinsky suspended in the air, performing one of his renowned jumps.
With the many rooms in this exhibition and the crossing between visual art, dance and music, it’s hard not to feel like a spectator attending a very complete show, what with its elements of projection performance; edited extracts of Stravinsky’s Firebird and other productions, glittering costumes on rotating plinths and an incredible ambience, it’s all like a production itself. There’s something there for everyone, a fabulously all-in-one show.