born May 4 [April 21, old
style], 1870, St. Petersburg, Russia
died Feb. 9, 1960, Paris
Russian in full Aleksandr Nikolayevich Benois Russian theatre art
director, painter, and ballet librettist who with Léon Bakst and
Sergey Diaghilev cofounded the influential magazine Mir iskusstva
(“World of Art”), from which sprang theDiaghilev Ballets Russes.
Benois aspired to achieve a synthesis of new western European trends
and certain elements of traditional Russian folk art; Mir iskusstva,
established in 1899 in St. Petersburg, attacked the low artistic
standards of the realist Peredvezhniki Society and the deadening
influence of the Russian Academy and stressed individualism and
artistic personality. The magazine, which he coedited until 1904, soon
exerted great influence on stage design.
Benois began his career (c. 1901) at the Mariinsky Theatre, St.
Petersburg, as scenic designer for the ballets Sylvia and Cupid's
Revenge. When the Diaghilev Ballets Russes openedin 1909, Benois
designed decor and costumes for, among others, Les Sylphides (1909),
Giselle (1910), and Petrushka (1911), on which he collaborated with
Igor Stravinsky. His later works include grand designs for La Valse
(1929, Ida Rubinstein Company), The Nutcracker (1940, Ballet Russe de
Monte Carlo), and Graduation Ball, for which he also wrote the
libretto (1957, London Festival Ballet). Among his writings are
Reminiscences of the Ballet Russe (1941) and Memoirs (1960). Benois's
collaboration with Stravinsky and Michel Fokine presented some of the
greatest dance drama in history and helped found modern ballet.