Alexander Benois

Born: 1870, St Petersburg
Died: 1960, Paris

Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, art historian, art critic. Grandson of architect Alberto Cavos (1800–1863), son of Nicolas Benois and Camilla Cavos (1828–1891), younger brother of Albert Benois and Léon Benois, uncle of Yevgeny Lanceray and Zinaida Serebryakova, great-uncle of actor Sir Peter Ustinov (1921–2004). Attended the Karl May Grammar School in St Petersburg (1885–90). Studied under his elder brother Albert Benois (1880s), at the evening classes of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1887–88) and at the Faculty of Law of St Petersburg University (1890–94). Lived in Paris, studying French art and culture (1896–98). Created the series of Last Promenades of Louis XIV and Russian History in Pictures and painted landscapes in and around St Petersburg, Versailles, Brittany and Provence. Contributed to exhibitions (from 1891). Founder of the World of Art (1899–1924), contributing to its exhibitions (1899–1903, 1906, 1911–15, 1922, 1924) and regularly writing for the periodical of the same name (1898–1904). Founder and editor of the Artistic Treasures of Russia magazine (1901–03). Member of the Society of Russian Watercolourists (1893–96), Union of Russian Artists (from 1903), Salon des Indépendants (1906) and the Salon d’Automne in Paris (life member from 1906). Artistic director of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (1909–11), designing the sets and costumes for Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Pétrouchka (1911). Principal designer of the Moscow Arts Theatre (1913–15). Curator of the Hermitage Picture Gallery (1918–26) and member of the Commission for the Protection of Monuments of Art and History (1918–24). Emigrated to Paris (1926). Designed sets and costumes for the Opéra Privé de Paris, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Teatro Real de Madrid, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées and Théâtre National de l’Opéra in Paris. Principal designer and stage director of the Ida Rubinstein Ballet Company (1927–35), working on productions of Igor Stravinsky’s Le baiser de la fée (1928), Maurice Ravel’s Boléro (1928) and Georges Auric’s Les Enchantements dAlciné (1929). Designed for La Scala in Milan, where his son Nicolas was head of production (after 1945), working on productions of Peter Tchaikovsky’s ballets The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty, Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Pétrouchka and Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Le Coq d’or. Worked for the cinema and illustrated books. Published extracts from his memoirs in the Russian Notes magazine and critical articles in the Latest News newspaper (1930s). Published his memoirs in two volumes towards the end of his life. Died in Paris and buried at the Cimetière des Batignolles (1960). Contributed to the exhibitions of the Society of Russian Watercolourists (1893–96), Union of Russian Artists (1903–10), Die erste russische Kunstausstellung in Berlin (1922) and the exhibitions of Russian art in Paris (1906, 1910, 1921), Berlin (1906), United States and Canada (1924–25), Brussels (1928), Copenhagen (1929), Belgrade (1930), Paris (1932) and Prague (1935). One-man shows in Paris (1926, 1929, 1953), London (1936, 1939, 1959, 1960), Como (1955), Milan (1960) and Moscow (1972). Cavalier (1906) and officer (1916) of the Légion d’honneur.

Random articles