[BAKST, Leon] The Decorative Art of Leon Bakst. Appreciation by Arsene Alexandre. Notes on the Ballets by Jean Cocteau. Translated from the French by Harry Melvill.

Fine Art Society. 1913.


Folio, original half vellum gilt over marbled boards, Photographic portrait frontispiece, title, [4] leaves, 51 pp. [12] leaves, 77 tipped-in plates including 50 in colour. A little light rubbing to binding, some natural toning to the vellum, signs of a now removed bookplate on front paste-down, otherwise a very good copy.

First edition of this lavish work on Bakst's art. "Born in Russia in 1866, Léon Bakst belonged to that young generation of European artists who rebelled against 19th century stage realism, which had become pedantic and literal, without imagination or theatricality. There were no specialist trained theatre designers, so painters like Léon Bakst turned their painting skills to theatre design. Bakst's fame lay in the ballets he designed for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes, and huge pageant spectaculars for dancer and patron, Ida Rubinstein. He died in 1924 but after nearly 100 years his magic is as potent as ever, rediscovered by every generation. His influence was such that people who have never heard his name now see the world in a different way" (Victoria & Albert Museum).

Published as the Ballets Russes was achieving its full flowering. Includes reproductions of Bakst's early designs for L'Oiseau de feu, Le Dieu Bleu, L'Apres-Midi D'Un Faune, Cleopatre, Scheherazade, La Peri and many others.