It was thanks to Sergei Diaghilev, one of the initiators and organizers of the creative community "World of Art" and the magazine of the same name, the first ballet impresario of the 20th century that in the very history of Russian fine art people began to see not an object for denunciation, but a subject for study. The principle of "art for art's sake" was put forward to replace the so-called ideological nature of all Russian culture. Art is self-sufficient: it should be pursued not for the sake of some idea, but for its own sake.
Sergei Diaghilev was born on March 31 in Selishche in the family of a career military man and cavalry guard. As a child, he lived with his father and stepmother at his father's duty station in St. Petersburg and Perm. In the house in Perm, owned by a large and friendly Diaghilev family, called by contemporaries "Perm Athens", the city liberal community gathered on Thursdays. Sometimes a real orchestra gathered in the house - musicians from the local opera came to the Diaghilevs place. They played Dargomyzhsky, Glinka and Tchaikovsky compositions. The latter was a relative of Diaghilev; he was called "Uncle Petya" in the house.
After graduating from the gymnasium, Sergei entered the law faculty of St. Petersburg University, at the same time he studied music with N.A. Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Thanks to Rimsky-Korsakov, Diaghilev met the young composer Igor Stravinsky, and this acquaintance became the most important in the lives of all three.
In 1896, Diaghilev graduated from the university, but instead of practicing law, he began a career related to art. He was an official for special assignments under the director of the Imperial Theaters and in 1899-1900 - the Yearbook of the Imperial Theatres editor.
In the 1890s, creative community “World of Art” and the similarly named magazine were originated. Sergei Diaghilev headed the editorial board and was its ideological inspirer. His friends were among the like-minded people - Dmitry Filosofov (cousin of Sergei), Alexandre Benois, Walter Nouvel and Leon Bakst. Editing the magazine for six years, Diaghilev united all the most significant writers and artists of the new trend - Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Konstantin Balmont, Valery Bryusov, Isaac Levitan, Valentin Serov, Mikhail Vrubel and many others were among the collaborators. The magazine introduced the Russian public to foreign writers and artists unknown in Russia wrote reports on new trends in theater, music and architecture. In addition to working on a magazine and writing books at that time, Diaghilev began to organize resonant exhibitions in Russia.
In October 1906, thanks to the efforts of Diaghilev, the exhibition "Two Centuries of Russian Painting and Sculpture" was opened in the Paris center of the Grand Palais as part of the Autumn Salon, which introduced foreigners to Russian art. The exhibition enjoyed great success with the public and critics and became a major event and the starting point of the triumphal implementation of "Russian Seasons".
In May 1907, in order to introduce Russian music to Europe, Sergei Pavlovich organized an event at the Paris Opera called "Historical Russian Concerts". In total, five concerts were held, in which outstanding Russian musicians, composers, conductors and soloists took part - S. Rachmaninov, N. Rimsky-Korsakov, F. Chaliapin and others. In the First "Russian Season" at the Paris Opera, only the opera by M. Mussorgsky "Boris Godunov" with F. Chaliapin in the title role was presented. The success was enormous. Since 1909, Diaghilev decided to show abroad not only operas, but also Russian ballet. The first ballet presented to the Parisian public was the “Pavilion of Artemis”. The troupe "Russian Ballet of Diaghilev" was founded and performed until the death of the founder.
“Devil in the flesh”, “sacred monster”, “Russian prince” - this is how the French writer Jean Cocteau said about him. Sergei Diaghilev, through the art of opera and ballet, narrated the entire world about the national culture with its traditions. Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Matilda Kshesinskaya, Vatslav Nijinsky and Mikhail Fokin performed on the best theater stages in the world at different times. The name of Diaghilev was mentioned in the memoirs of almost all the brightest representatives of art of that time. He collaborated with Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, with composers Maurice Ravel, Claude Debussy and Eric Satie. Among his friends was the great Coco Chanel, who often financially supported his expensive productions, and she herself created costume designs. Pablo Picasso said, “Diaghilev did more to spread my fame on an international scale than all Paris expositions.
It was the scale and uniqueness of his personality, unique intuition and efficiency that largely determined the worldwide success of his large-scale enterprise.
The Russian Ballet of Diaghilev, founded during the third Russian Season, enjoyed the incredible success. Seasons were held in Italy, Germany and America. The troupe included talented dancers and choreographers, Vatslav Nijinsky, Leonid Myasin, Ida Rubinstein, Serge Lifar and others. The scenery for the ballets was created by A. Benois, L. Bakst, N. Roerich, later Diaghilev collaborated with leading European (P. Picasso, A. Derain, A. Matisse) and Russian (N. Goncharova, M. Larionov) artists.
Long-term and fruitful collaboration between Sergei Pavlovich and Igor Stravinsky began in 1910. The impresario "discovered" a brilliant musician to the world. Stravinsky wrote for the Russian Seasons the ballets “The Firebird”, “Pulcinella”, “The Rite of Spring”, which brought world fame to the author.
Since 1923, the Russian Ballet troupe settled in Monte Carlo, where the artists held their rehearsals. The artists Joan Miro and Max Ernst created the scenery and costumes For the production of the ballet “Romeo and Juliet”.
Despite the success of the “Russian Ballet”, Diaghilev often experienced financial difficulties and resorted to the help of patrons. In the 1920s, Diaghilev became interested in collecting rare books and autographs in Russian. He went to his beloved Venice, despite the exacerbation of infectious furunculosis, where he died on August 19, 1929. The day before his death, Misia Sert and Coco Chanel visited him and subsequently paid for his funeral on the island of San Michele in the Orthodox part of the cemetery. In his memoirs, Igor Stravinsky, speaking about new trends in the ballet of the 20th century, noted, “...would these trends have arisen without Diaghilev? I do not think so".