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Aktis Gallery exhibits Ballets Russes artists at Salon Point Art Monaco August 1 - 5
Alexander Nikolaevich BENOIS (1870-1960), Set Design for L'Idiot, 1924-25. Signed, inscribed ‘Acte III, Le salon de Nastassia pour Mm. Rubinstein (Theatre du Vaudeville) on reverse. Watercolour, gouache and pencil on paper. Inventory stamp N0 2986 on reverse, 29.5 x 49.5 cm. ©Aktis Gallery, London.

MONACO.- Aktis Gallery is making its debut appearance at the Salon Point Art Monaco with a display of Russian and French 20th century art including works on paper by the sought after Russian theatre designer, Alexander Nikolaevich Benois (1870-1960). A group of watercolors, spanning his public and private life, is shown alongside artists with whom he was associated.

The scene is set by a dramatic and rare pastel poster design by Pierre Bonnard, created in 1914 for the Ballets Russes, La Légende de Joseph, which caused something of a revolution on the hoardings of Paris less than two months before the outbreak of the First World War. The work, which shows Léonide Massine, the celebrated dancer in the title role, was revered for its freedom of drawing and sense of composition.

But the unifying figure on the Aktis Gallery stand is Alexander Benois, a key figure of 20th century Russian art – a designer for the Ballets Russes under Sergei Diaghilev, who was to have such influence on modern ballet and stage design. Together with Diaghilev and the artist Leon Bakst, Benois founded, in 1899, the influential art magazine and movement Mir iskusstva (World of Art), from which the Diaghilev Ballets Russes derived. Benois co-edited the magazine until 1904.

A charming set design by Benois produced for an adaption of Fedor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot performed by Ida Rubenstein’s dance troupe in 1925 at the Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris, shows something of the passion for Russian ballet that drove Benois and his circle to revive it abroad. “What we brought to Paris was not the decadent Imperial Ballet, but something entirely separate – our own ballet, that corresponded with our ideals, that resuscitated the joys of our youth…”

Representing Benois, the private man, are a group of personal landscape sketches showing his love of the French countryside and its coastal landscapes. One of his first visits to the South of France in 1914 was cut short by the outbreak of war but, after he moved to France in 1927, the Benois family would return for the summer months every year for the next ten years. Benois loved to sketch in Cassis and he was often to be found with a sketchbook and a folding chair, drawing for two to three hours en plein air. On display from this period are, The Cliffs at Sanary (1927) and Woods in Cassis (1932).

Benois and his wife, Anna, first visited Brittany in the summer of 1897 and returned again in 1905 when he painted The View of the Brittany Coast. He wrote of this time, “We found something there, which we could not find in other, perhaps more polite and charming lands, a certain energy, some sort of boost to our health, not just in the physical sense, but spiritually too.”

In addition, there is a stage set design for L’ecole des femmes (1927) by Léopold Survage, who was perhaps influenced by his commissions for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes in 1922. Also, three works on paper from the 1920s by Alexandre Iacovleff, who was noticed by Benois early in his career for displaying, “A tremendous sensibility to nature … One cannot doubt that his talent is phenomenal”.

Directors and founding partners of Aktis Gallery, Anna Chalova and Iana Kobeleva, are delighted to be exhibiting at the fair this year, “We are very much looking forward to taking part in Salon Point Art Monaco, a location we consider to be a central meeting point for so many of our international clients,” says Chalova.

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