Queer Places:
Batignolles Cemetery Paris, City of Paris, Île-de-France, France

Alexandre Benois

by Gordon Anthony
modern bromide print from original negative, 1937
16 in. x 12 in. (405 mm x 304 mm) image size
Purchased, 1988
Photographs Collection
NPG x44781Alexandre Nikolayevich Benois (3 May [O.S..21 April] 1870,21 April] 1870,[1][2] Saint Petersburgg– 9 February 1960,– 9 February 1960, Paris) was a Russian artist, art critic, historian,) was a Russian artist, art critic, historian, preservationist, and founding member of, and founding member of Mir iskusstvaa(World of Art), an art movement and magazine.(World of Art), an art movement and magazine.[1][3] As a designer for the Ballets Russessunderunder Sergei Diaghilev, Benois exerted what is considered a seminal influence on the modern ballettandand stage design..[3]

Alexandre was born into the artistic and intellectual Benois family, prominent members of the 19th- and early 20th-century Russian, prominent members of the 19th- and early 20th-century Russian intelligentsia. His mother Camilla (ru: Камилла Альбертовна Кавос, and then Бенуа) was the granddaughter ofwas the granddaughter of Catterino Cavos. His father was. His father was Nicholas Benois, a noted Russian architect. His brothers included, a noted Russian architect. His brothers included Albert, a painter, and, a painter, and Leon, also a notable architect. His sister, Maria, married the composer and conductor, also a notable architect. His sister, Maria, married the composer and conductor Nikolai Tcherepninn(with whom Alexandre would work). Not planning a career in the arts, Alexandre graduated from the Faculty of Law,(with whom Alexandre would work). Not planning a career in the arts, Alexandre graduated from the Faculty of Law, Saint Petersburg Imperial University, in 1894., in 1894.


Portrait of Alexandre Benois by Léon Bakst, 1898

Three years later while in Versailles, Benois painted a series of, Benois painted a series of watercolorssdepicting Last Promenades ofdepicting Last Promenades of Louis XIV. When exhibited by. When exhibited by Pavel Tretyakovvin 1897, they brought him to attention ofin 1897, they brought him to attention of Sergei Diaghilevvand the artistand the artist Léon Bakst. Together the three men founded the art magazine and movement Mir iskusstvaa(World of Art), which promoted the(World of Art), which promoted the Aesthetic Movement and Art Nouveau in Russia.[3] During the first decade of the new century, Benois continued to edit Mir iskusstva, but also pursued his scholarly and artistic interests. He wrote and published several monographs on 19th-century Russian art and Tsarskoye Selo. In 1903, Benois printed his illustrations to Pushkin's poem The Bronze Horseman, a work since recognized as one of the landmarks in the genre. In 1904, he published his "Alphabet in Pictures", at once a children's primer and elaborate art book, copies of which fetch as much as $10,000US at auction.[4] Illustrations from this volume were featured at a video presentation during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014. In 1901, Benois was appointed scenic director of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, the performance space for the Imperial Russian Ballet. He moved to Paris in 1905 and thereafter devoted most of his time to stage design and decor.[3] During these years, his work with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was groundbreaking. His sets and costumes for the productions of Les Sylphides (1909), Giselle (1910), and Petrushka (1911), are counted among his greatest triumphs. Although Benois worked primarily with the Ballets Russes, he also collaborated with the Moscow Art Theatre and other notable theatres of Europe. Surviving the upheaval of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Benois achieved recognition for his scholarship; he was selected as curator of the gallery of Old Masters in the Hermitage Museum at Leningrad, where he served from 1918 to 1926. During this time he secured his brother's heirloom Leonardo da Vinci painting of the Madonna for the museum. It became known as the Madonna Benois. Benois published his Memoirs in two volumes in 1955. In 1927 he left Russia and settled in Paris.[1] He worked primarily as a set designer after settling in France.[1]

In 1894, Alexandre married Anna Karlovna Kind from a renowned Russian music family. They first met in 1876 when Alexandre was learning music from the family patriarch, Karl Ivanovich Kind (who came to Russia in 1850s by the invitation of Nicholas I of Russia to be the royal court's first string violinist).[5] Anna and Alexandre were married for 60 years and are buried together at Batignolles Cemetery in Paris.[6][7] Alexandre played a central role in the Russian artistic community both before and after the Revolution. Anna was always by his side. Her presence was positively remembered in the artistic circles with several mentions by artist like Mstislav Dobuzhinsky. She was a model painted by Léon Bakst,[8] Valentin Serov,[9] Zinaida Serebriakova,[10] and others.


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