Monday, 10:32am
16 August 2010

Design for music and dance

john ridpath
the events department
Design history
Music design
Visual culture

Serge Diaghilev’s all-star cast of artists brought the Ballet Russes to life

Music and design meet again next month, when a major exhibition exploring Serge Diaghilev’s role as artistic director and impresario of the Ballets Russes opens.

Diaghilev assembled an incredible cast of artists and designers to create the costumes, sets and graphic imagery for his company. London’s V&A will host work by Picasso, Chanel, Matisse, Bakst and Braque, alongside other original objects including props and scores.

Top: Caricature drawing of the composer Igor Stravinsky playing the music for Le Sacre du Prentemps, Jean Cocteau (1913). V&A images.

Below: Front cover for ‘Costume de Chinois du Ballet: “Parade”’ with costume design for a Chinese Conjurer, Pablo Picasso (1917). ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2010


The work of the Ballet Russes between 1909 and 1929 was groundbreaking, culminating in the infamous riot at the premier of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. It was here, according to Jan Kounen’s new movie Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky, that an alleged love affair between the designer and the composer began. But the story of the company’s relationship with design is just as arresting.


Above: Front cloth used for Le Train Bleu after a painting by Pablo Picasso (1924). ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2010.

Below: Costume for a Mandarin in Le Chant du Rossignol, Henri Matisse (1920). Succession H Matisse/DACS 2010.


Below: Serge Diaghilev, V&A images


The exhibition graphics will be by Chris Bigg - best known for his work with Vaughan Oliver at 4AD, and more recently more music design at David Sylvian’s Samadhisound label (below).


25 September 2010 > 9 January 2011
Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909 - 1929
V&A Museum
South Kensington, Cromwell Road,
London SW7 2RL

Eye magazine is available from all good design bookshops and at the online Eye shop, where you can order subscriptions, single issues and back issues.

The summer issue, 76, out now, is a music special – full contents here, and you can see a selection of visual details on Eye Before You Buy on Issuu.

Student subscriptions are half price, see