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Stage design for Diaghilev’s ballet, Romeo and Juliet, 1925

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 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.

Drawing [CW 12]

Reserve Collection

Gouache on paper

140 x 235 mm

About the artist

Wood was born in Liverpool. Through extended visits to Paris between 1921 and 1924 he came into contact with the European avant-garde, meeting Picasso and Jean Cocteau in 1923. In Britain he became close friends with Ben and Winifred Nicholson, painting with them in Cumberland in 1928. That year he also met Alfred Wallis on a visit to St. Ives with Ben Nicholson, and lived near Wallis for several months. He first visited Brittany in 1929, returning in 1930. During his Parisian years Wood was introduced to opium by Cocteau. He became addicted to it and was under the drug's influence when he was killed by a train at Salisbury station.