Finding the Ballets Russes in NYC – Part Two.

At the New York Historical Society you can now see, on permanent display, what is surely the biggest Picasso in NYC!

Image result for le tricorne set cloth historical society

The canvas was once the front cloth for Le Tricorne, from 1919, designed by Picasso, and shows a traditional corrida scene.

In 1928 Diaghilev cut the middle section cut out of the cloth and sold it to raise funds. It was bought by a private collector. In 1957 it was acquired by Phyllis Lambert, architectural historian and daughter of Canadian business magnate Samuel Bronfman, CEO of Seagram Liquor Empire. The cloth was displayed in the Four Seasons Restaurant in Seagram Building from 1959 – 2014.

In 2015 the cloth was moved to the New York Historical Society. According to the New York Times the move ‘was the end of a tortured ordeal over the fate of the work, which had resided at the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building only to be pushed out in a dispute between the landlord and the New York Landmarks Conservancy.’

Here is a great video showing the installation of the cloth.

Also on display at the New York Historical Society are 11 facsimile costume designs and a video of the 1994 Paris Opera version of Le Tricorne.

The costumes and sets for Le Tricorne were made in London in 1919.  A studio in Floral St was hired by Ballets Russes set painters Vladimir and Elizabeth Violet Polunin. It was here that the sets for Le Tricorne were painted.

Image result for polinin tricorne picasso
Diaghilev, Polunin and Picasso in the studio in Floral St.
Image result for ballets russes tricorne picasso
Picasso and Olga  Khokhlova
Image result for ballets russes tricorne picasso
The commemorative plaque on the studio building in Floral St.

Next time you are in NYC go and see this beautiful piece of Ballets Russes History.

New York Historical Society



Jacob’s Pillow!

Warning you are entering a dance nerd zone!

For the next three months I will be living and working at Jacob’s Pillow – the longest running dance festival in the USA and probably the most famous in the world. It is proving a pretty great experience so far with new artists and students arriving each week, as well as the huge team of interns, fellows, apprentices and staff.

Blake's Barn
At my new home – Blake’s Barn, The Jacob’s Pillow Archives.

Over the summer I will be writing a weekly blog for thewonderfulworldofdance Please take a look – it is full of fabulous nerdy things!

Blog No. 1  

Blog No. 2

Insideout stage Jacobs PIllow
A magical setting – The Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out Stage.

Here is a glimpse into some of the things I have been working on – an original poster for the Denishawn Company from 1926 and a costume for dancer Barton Mumaw from the 1930s.


Fokine Ballet Summer Camp

This time I swear I wasn’t looking for ballet!

I spent the last weekend in the gorgeous town of  Lenox, Massachusetts. This area was the hugely popular during the so called ‘Gilded Age’ and is full of beautiful estates called ‘cottages’.

I went to visited the gorgeous Ventfort Hall – built for Sarah Morgan. After a chequered chronology this became the home of the Fokine Ballet Summer Camp in the 1960. The school bought the house in 1965 and maintained it until 1976.


When I heard this I was intrigued – what was this camp and what, if any, was the connection to Fokine?

The Fokine Ballet Summer Camp and School were in fact run by Christine Fokine Biddleman – whose first husband was Vitale Fokine – the son of Michel Fokine. It seems that after her divorce she kept the name and used it’s influence if the established of her ballet school and camp.


Christine (b. 1920 – d. 1981), according to her obituary in the New York Times, had been a member of the Ballet Russes de Monte Carlo in Europe and danced here with the Metropolitan Opera and the Fokine Ballet.

I have not yet been able to find out much about the camp – but will keep digging.

The Ballets Russes follows me everywhere!

Finding the Ballets Russes in NYC – Part One.

Whenever I go, intentionally or not, I seem to find something to do with Diaghilev and The Ballets Russes.

For the last week I have been in New York and on Monday I visited the Met Museum – one of my favourite museums. Quite by accident I came across a  display of designs by Léon Bakst.


The small exhibition, in the Drawing and Prints room on the second floor (690), contains 15 designs and paintings by Bakst as well as some items of ephemera. According to the didactic panel the Met’s holdings of Russian art were significantly enhanced in 2015 through the bequest of Sallie Blumenthal.


Unfortunately there are some pretty bad mistakes in the information panels including a statement that the Ballets Russes was founded in 1905.

The designs include a number of Ballets Russes related items:


  • A design for Iksender from La Peri – Bakst designed this ballet in 1911/12 but it was never created. The design at the Met is dated 1922 and would appear to be a copy created by Bakst.
  • Two designs from Scheherazade.  One is a costumes design for the Sultan Samarkand dated 1922 – this, like La Peri, would appear to be a copy created by Bakst . The second design is for a Eunuch from 1910.
  • Two designs from Daphnis and Chloe. One is a design for a woman from the village and the second is for a Brigand Boy – both dated 1912.
  • The costume design for a female courtier from The Sleeping Princess, 1921. I believe this design might actually be from Anna Pavlova’s version of The Sleeping Beauty created in 1916. Bakst did reuse some of his designs for the Ballets Russes 1921 version.
  • The design for the day bed for Cleopatra, dated 1909.
  • Set design for The Good Humoured Ladies, 1917.
  • Set design for Daphnis and Chloe, 1912.
  • Set design for Narcisse, 1911.
A case of ephemera relating to the Ballets Russes 1916 & 17 USA tours.

Irving Penn

The Met currently also has a wonderful exhibition of Irving Penn’s (b.1917 – d.2009) work. Although Penn worked after Diaghilev’s death a number of his portraits featured associates from the company. This included: Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Stravinsky – as well as a wonderful portrait of The Ballet Club featuring Balanchine.

Copyright Met Museum

In search of Pavlova…

Over the last 12 days I have been exploring Scotland by train (and ferry and occasionally bus and even taxi!) – it was brilliant adventure. When I was in Glasgow I went to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It was here that I was able to see this wonderful painting of Anna Pavlova in The Bacchanale by Sir John Lavery.

Lavery, b.1856 – d.1941, was born in Belfast. He was sent to Scotland in 1866 and would go on to establish his career in Glasgow.

I found Pavlova in Glasgow!

Lavery moved to London in 1896 and soon became a sought-after portraitist. He painted Anna Pavlova several times across 1910 and 1911.

Lavery was commissioned by The London Illustrated News, in 1910, to paint a head and shoulder sketch of Pavlova. The image appeared in the paper on the 22nd of April, 1911, p. 17 – ‘Anna Pavlova – The great Russian dance, by John Lavery – Specially painted from life for The London Illustrated News.’ Pavlova posed regularly for him during her stay in London in 1910 and Lavery painted two full-length portraits of Pavlova in The Bacchanale, one of which is as Kelvingrove.

The painting of Pavlova at Kelvingrove – it captures a wonderful sense of movement!
Sir John Lavery [Irish painter, 1856-1941]
Lavery’s second portrait of Pavlova.
Lavery’s head and shoulder portrait of Pavlova , commissioned by The Illustrated London News.

On Pavlova’s return to London in 1911 she posed again – this time Pavlova’s famed solo The Dying Swan formed the focus. Interestingly the painting was completed using Lavery’s wife Hazel as the model. The Tate cites that ‘although there were clear differences between the two women, Lavery believed that, in stage makeup, Hazel could easily pass for the dancer.’

Le Mort du Cygne: Anna Pavlova 1911 by Sir John Lavery 1856-1941
The painting of Pavlova at The Tate.
Hazel Lavery – you can see some similarities to Anna Pavlova.
Anna Pavlova dressed in her swan costume by the pond at Ivy House. Museum of London.

Whilst this portrait is beautiful it is certainly does not emulate Pavlova and her dancing as well as The Bacchanale at Kelvingrove. The Tate mistakenly cites this portrait as showing Pavlova in the ballet Swan Lake and not the divertissement Le Mort du Cygne aka The Dying Swan. The Tate wrongly suggests that the lake in the background is the ‘swan lake’ and that Pavlova’s pose is not from the ballet. The scene to me looks like it may be by the pond at Ivy House (Keith Money supports this) – Pavlova often posed in her swan costume by this pond. The pose is reflective of the final moments of The Dying Swan. 

A second portrait is held at the V&A. Another study of Pavlova in The Dying Swan was sold for £158,500, at Christie’s in 2014.

Portrait at the V&A.
Portrait sold at Christie’s in 2014.

Ballets Russes Google Doodle

Yesterday marked the 145th birthday of Ballets Russes impresario Serge Diaghilev – to celebrate this Google created a doodle in his honour.


Without Diaghilev the arts and in particular ballet would be very different. The Ballets Russes was the most significant artistic enterprise of the C20th and it was led by the indomitable figure of Diaghilev.

Diaghilev fostered and promoted the careers of dancers such as Pavlova, Nijinsky and Karsavina – choreographers; Fokine, Massine and Balanchine – composers; Stravinsky, Ravel and Satie and artists including Bakst, Goncharova, Matisse, Picasso and de Chirico.


Although such a significant figure he has been largely forgotten in the main stream which is why this doodle is so fantastic. I hope it prompted even just a few people to learn more about this great man.

In January this year I visited Venice and went to San Michele where Diaghilev is buried. He died on the 19th of August 1929 and was buried in the Russian Orthodox section of the island cemetery.


The monument was covered with ballet shoes left by visitors. Nearby are the graves of Stravinsky and his wife Vera. The morning I visited I was the only person in this quite section of the cemetery.

Pavlova at The Savoy once more…

Last weekend I was involved in a wonderful event at The Savoy as part of this year’s Russian Ballet Icons Gala. This year’s gala focused of the legacy of The Ballets  Russes and consisted of a star studded gala at The Coliseum Theatre followed by a dinner at The Savoy.

I was asked by Giberg London to create a display inspired by Anna Pavlova for the pre-dinner drinks reception. Swiss silversmiths, Giberg, have created a wonderful range of jewellery, watches and objet d’art inspired by Anna Pavlova and they wanted this inspiration to be present in the display. For this event a replica of Pavlova’s Dying Swan costume took pride of place. I also had three dancers dressed as Pavlova (each costume was inspired by a different photograph of the ballerina) moving throughout the room.

I traced this wonderful picture of Pavlova performing at the annual fancy dress ball in 1912. The painting, by A.C. Michael, appeared in the Illustrated London News on the 1st of June 1912.

The Savoy was allegedly where Serge Diaghilev preferred to stay when in London and the Savoy Grill was apparently his favourite eatery. Anna Pavlova herself performed there several times at the annual fancy dress ball in aid of Middlesex Hospital. In 1911 Pavlova won second prize in the best lady’s costume competition dressed in her Russian dance costume.

Giberg event Savoy (7)
Ursula Hageli’s stunning reconstruction of The Dying Swan tutu took pride of place.


Giberg event Savoy (11)
The three ladies portraying Anna Pavlova looked gorgeous in vintage costumes.
Giberg event Savoy (13)
Thank-you to the wonderful Sophie Dutta for creating three gorgeous 1920s looks. 

Giberg event Savoy (22)
Packing up wasn’t quite so glamorous!

What started it all …

The Ballets Russes, and in particular their costumes, have been my passion since I was 15 years old and found an old exhibition catalogue in a second-hand bookshop.

The catalogue was from the National Gallery of Australia’s 1999 exhibition, From Russia with Love, and contained a picture of this costume for a knight from the 1910 production of Firebird. I became obsessed with this wonderful costume which had been designed by Aleksandr Golovin for The Ballets Russes.

My favourite costume of all time! NGA

I loved the relative simplicity of it and the use of a white/cream back ground. The double skirt or lampshade style also fascinated me. To me it was perfect!

In year 10 at my high school in Central Victoria – while everyone else was making cotton pj’s in textiles class –  I made and screen printed my own version of this costume!

The design for ‘My’ costume.


The Firebird remains my favourite ballet and this costume triggered my whole career!

Powered by

Up ↑