Rosenberg Lev Samoylovich, called Bakst, was a painter and a stage designer of Belorussian birth. He was born in Grodno on May 10th 1866 and he died in Paris on December 27, 1924.
He began his professional life as a copyist and illustrator of teaching materials but quickly moved on to illustration of popular magazines. His tastes were influenced and horizons enlarged when he met Alexander Benois and his circle in 1890.
With Benois and Serge Diaghilev, he was a founder of the (Mir Iskusstva) group in 1898 and was largely responsible for the technical excellence of its influential magazine. In 1906 he became a drawing teacher at the Yelizaveta Zvantseva's private school in St Peterburg, where his pupils included Marc Chagall.
Bakst realized his greatest artistic success in the theatre. Making the debut with designs for stage productions at the Hermitage and Alexandrinsky theatres in St Peterburg (1902-1903), he was then commissioned for several works at the Maryinsky theatre (1903-1904). In 1909, he collaborated with Diaghilev in the founding of Ballets Russes, where he acted as artistic director, and his stages designs rapidly brought him international fame.
His colorful exotic costumes and decors for Diaghilev's Scheherazade (Paris, 1910) caused a sensation. Between 1909 and 1921 he designed more Diaghilev productions than any other artist; his name became inseparable from the Ballets Russes.
Bakst was an accomplished painter, as well as designer, in the World of Art group. His costumes for Diaghilev’s revival of Imperial Ballet, The Sleeping Princess (London, 1921) was appropriately traditional as may be seen from his Design for Columbine from the ballet (London, Theatre Museum). Other examples of his designs for Diaghilev are to be found in the Australian National Gallery in Canberra.