2023 Author: Leah Sherlock | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-08-25 09:26
The famous Russian artist Alexander Nikolaevich Benois (1870-1960) was born into a famous family, where besides him there were eight more children. Mother Camilla Albertovna Benois (Kavos) was a musician by training. Father is a famous architect.
Alexander Benois, biography (short): childhood and youth
The childhood of the future artist passed in St. Petersburg. There he entered the private gymnasium of Karl May, which at different times graduated from 25 representatives of the Benois family. After completing his classical education, Alexander continued his studies at the Faculty of Law of St. Petersburg University and at the same time attended classes at the Academy of Arts. In addition, in his student years, the young Benois proved himself as a writer and art critic, supplementing Mutter's book The History of European Art with a chapter on Russian art. Between 1896 and 1898 Alexandre Benois lived and worked in France. It was there that he wrote the Versailles Series.
In 1898, together with S. P. Diaghilev, Alexander Benois organized the association "World of Art", which produced a publication of the same name. It included suchfamous artists like Lansere, Diaghilev and Bakst. The members of the association arranged exhibitions in which Roerich, Vrubel, Serov, Bilibin, Vasnetsov, Korovin and Dobuzhinsky took part. However, not all eminent artists reacted favorably to the "World of Art". In particular, Repin did not really like this company, and called Benois himself a dropout, a bibliographer and curator of the Hermitage, although he took part in exhibitions.
In 1905, Alexandre Benois left for France. There, including on his initiative, the Russian Seasons ballet troupe was formed, headed by Diaghilev. Benois was its artistic director and in 1911 created the world-famous scenery for the opera Petrushka by Stravinsky. Moreover, few people know that the artist not only designed the performance, but also helped write the libretto for the opera.
Return to Russia
In 1910, the artist published the Guide to the Hermitage. This edition was the pinnacle of his work as an art critic. A few years later, Alexander Benois bought with his own money in the Crimea, in the city of Sudak, a piece of land on which he built a summer house, where he rested and worked. Paintings and sketches made there are kept in many museums in Russia. During the Soviet period, after his departure to France, when it became clear that Benoit would not return, the archive kept in the Crimean house of the artist was transferred to the Russian Museum, and personal belongings and furniture were sold at auction.
Life in Soviet Russia
After the Revolution on Gorky's recommendationAlexander Benois, whose photo is presented below, worked in the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Monuments, was in charge of the Hermitage and was engaged in the design of performances in many theaters: the Mariinsky, Alexandrinsky and the Bolshoi Drama Theater.
However, what was happening in the country was very upsetting for the artist. From the memorandum of A. V. Lunacharsky dated 1921-09-03, in response to a secret request No. 2244, it followed that at the beginning of the revolution he supported the changes, but was subsequently upset by life's hardships and expressed dissatisfaction with the communists who controlled museum work. Further, the people's commissar wrote that Benoit is not a friend of the new government, but as the director of the Hermitage, he renders enormous services to the country and art. Lunacharsky's resume sounded like this: the artist is valuable in terms of professional qualities, and he must be protected.
Ambiguous attitude to the new government predetermined the future life and work of Benois. "The Wedding of Figaro" is the last performance in the Leningrad Bolshoi Theater staged by the artist before leaving the country.
In 1926, on the recommendation of Lunacharsky, Alexander Benois, whose biography in recent years is full of tragic events, went on a business trip to work at the Grand Opera in France. Sending him to Paris, the People's Commissar perfectly understood what was going on in his soul. Benois was going to return to Russia after work, but at the end of June 1927, Lunacharsky himself arrived in Paris. From the artist's letter to F. F. Nortau follows that it was the people's commissar who persuaded him not to return to his homeland. In a friendly conversation, he spoke about the absencefunding and conditions for his work and advised to wait in France until the situation changes.
So Benoit never returned to Russia.
Last years of life
The biography of Alexander Benois continued to be written already far from his homeland, but by this time most of his friends and like-minded people were in Paris. The artist continued to work, designed the scenery in many theaters, wrote books and paintings. Later they worked together with their son Nikolai and daughter Elena. Alexandre Benois died in Paris in 1960, a little short of his 90th birthday. He left a huge number of works, publications and memoirs. Throughout his life, Alexander Benois, whose biography and work were inextricably linked with Russia, remained her ardent patriot and tried to make her culture popular all over the world.
Alexandre Benois was married. Children were born in the marriage: daughter Elena and son Nikolai. Both are artists. N. Benois in 1924, at the invitation of the National Opera, left for France. Then he moved to Italy, where for many years (from 1937 to 1970) he was director of the production at Milan's La Scala. He was engaged in the design of productions, many of which he did with his father, worked in many famous theaters of the world, for three seasons he designed productions at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. Daughter Elena left Soviet Russia with her father for Paris in 1926. She was a famous painter, and two of her paintings were acquired by the French government. Among her works is a portrait of B. F. Chaliapin and Z. E. Serebryakova.
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