5 February 2016
Our work of the week is Christopher Wood’s ‘Stage design for Diaghilev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet’ (1925). This work is currently on show in Pure Romance: Art and the Romantic Sensibility at Redfern Gallery.
Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes were a popularly controversial company which revolutionised ballet through the nurturing of young composers and choreographers, classically trained dancers and avant-garde painters as stage and costume designers. Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau and Fernand Léger were some of the artists against whose designs Christopher Wood hoped to be measured.
Diaghilev invited Wood to submit proposals when he began to plan a production of a ballet with English collaborators for the company’s visit to London in 1925. Wood had been recommended to him by Picasso and Cocteau. The impresario’s suggested theme was not the Shakespearian tale but the rehearsal of a ballet of the play, with music by British composer Constant Lambert. Wood’s designs try to convey the ‘behind the scene’ feel of the staging. Eventually his proposals were rejected in favour of designs by Joan Miró and Max Ernst.