Alexander Benois (Alexander Benois)

Alexander Benois

Theatrical Designer, Painter, Historian. An imaginative Classicist, his colorful style blended Russian Folk and French Rococo influences. He played an instrumental role in the founding of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.  Alexander Nikolayevich Benois was born in St. Petersburg,  Russia,  into a distinguished family of French-Italian descent.  Apart from a brief course in stage design at the Academy of Arts in 1887,  he was self-taught as an artist.  He made frequent trips to Europe and from 1901 to 1905 served as art director of the Imperial Maryinsky Theatre.  Benois’s association with Diaghilev began in the early 1890s when they were students at St. Petersburg University,  and both became leaders of the “World of Art” movement (1898 to 1907),  which introduced much Western painting to Russia.  His suggestion that Diaghilev present Russian opera and ballet in Paris directly resulted in the creation of the Ballets Russes in 1909,  and along with Leon Bakst he was the company’s chief designer during its early years.  He is probably best known for the brilliant “stage within a stage” designs for Igor Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” (1911),  for which he also wrote the scenario.  Among his other important Diaghilev productions were “Le Pavillion d’Armide”,  “The Nightingale”,  “Les Sylphides”,  and “Giselle”.  During that time he also collaborated with the Moscow Art Theatre and wrote or edited dozens of art books,  focusing on his particular expertise,  Russian painting during the reign of Catherine the Great.  Following the 1917 Revolution Benois was appointed Curator of Paintings at St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum,  but life under Communism and the government’s clandestine sale of artworks eventually grew intolerable for him.  In 1926 he settled in Paris and went on to create designs for over 200 stage productions,  primarily at the Comedie Francaise and La Scala in Milan.  His “Memoirs” were published in 1955.  Oscar-winning actor Peter Ustinov was his grand-nephew. (bio by: Bobb Edwards)  Family links:  Parents:  Nikolay Leontievich Benois (1813 – 1898)  Spouse:  Anna Karlovna Kind Benois (1869 – 1952)*  Children:  Anna Alexnadrovna Benois Tcherkessoff (1895 – 1984)*  Helene Alexandrovna Benois Clement (1898 – 1972)*  Siblings:  Albert Nikolaevich Benois (1852 – 1936)*  Leonty Nikolayevich Benois (1856 – 1928)*  Alexander Benois (1870 – 1960) *Calculated relationship


  • May, 04, 1870


  • February, 02, 1960


  • Batignolles Cemetery
  • France

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