The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

December 28, 2015

December 28, 1924

Leon Bakst (May 10, 1866 to December 28, 1924) was a Russian set designer most often associated with Sergei Diaghilev. He achieved a rare status in his profession, according to one source:

Few theatre designs achieve ‘art’ status, but as early as 1911, Léon Bakst became the first stage designer to have a solo exhibition in a major London gallery. He trained as a painter, but his theatre work was avidly collected in London and Paris.

Elsewhere we read:


In 1909, Bakst was invited to design productions for the first
Saison Russe in Paris. He continued working with the Ballets Russes, becoming the artistic director in 1911, until 1919. Bakst designed more of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes productions than any other artist associated with the company, while also working as a freelance dress and costume designer for select clients. Bakst designed for several productions in London and Paris and returned to the Ballets Russes to design The sleeping princess in 1921..

Here is a sketch of Bakst's for that production,  a figure we know as Puss n Boots-






Encyclopedia Britannica has an article on Leon Bakst, and in all likelihood, they correctly cite his death date as December 27. They are one of the few sources which does not magnify Wikipedia errors.The family detail they list is also interesting:


The origins of Bakst’s adopted last name are unclear. Bakst was a teenager when an era of virulent anti-Semitism began in Russia. Despite this, he was proud of his heritage throughout his life (though he was forced to “convert” in order to marry a Christian woman and from 1903 to 1910 he was nominally a Lutheran). He was interested in the visual arts from an early age, though his first attempt (at about age 16) to gain entrance to the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg failed. After a year of further study, he was accepted in 1883..... In 1887, when Bakst submitted for a school competition a Pietà showing the familiar biblical figures—Mary, with her red-rimmed eyes, and the disciples—as impoverished Jews, the school authorities were scandalized and dismissed him.

Little is known of Bakst’s activities in the next few years. He produced a variety of illustrations for magazines and children’s books, and in 1890 he was introduced to Alexandre Benois and his circle, a group known informally as the “Nevsky Pickwickians.” As a member of this group, Bakst met Serge Diaghilev and others who would influence his art and life....

The Victoria and Albert museum has a nice technical analysis of Bakst's art, art like this painting of Bakst's, which shows a feline inspiration.



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