Natalya Chernyshova-Melnik

Natalya Chernyshova-MelnikМеня зовут Наталия Мельник. Я журналист и литератор из Санкт-Петербурга,Россия (пишу под псевдонимом Наталия Чернышова-Мельник). Я являюсь автором трех научно-популярных книг. Две из них посвящены: 1. Великому князю Константину Константиновичу. Книга о нем называется: “Баловень судьбы: История жизни Константина Романова” М., 2008 (320 с.). 2. Великому князю Михаилу Александровичу. Книга о нем называется: “Отрекшийся от престола: Жизнь и любовь Михаила Романова” М., 2009 (480 с.). Третья книга является биографией Маэстро Сергея Дягилева - русского художественного критика, организатора художественных выставок, импресарио и основателя Русских сезонов и антрепризы "Русский балет Дягилева". Книга называется "Дягилев: Опередивший время" М., 2011 (475 с.).

My name is Natalya Melnik. I’m the journalist and writer from St.-Petersburg, Russia (my pen-name is Natalya Chernyshova-Melnik). I’m the author of three popular science books. Two of them are devoted to: 1. Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich of Russia. It is called “Favourite of Fortune: The story of Life of Konstantin Romanov”. Moscow, 2008 (320 pages) 2. Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia. It is called “Abdicated. Life and Love of Michael Romanov”. Moscow, 2009 (480 pages) The third book is the biography of Maestro Sergey Diaghilev - a Russian art critic, patron, ballet impresario and founder of the Russian seasons and “Les Ballets Russes de Diaghilev”. It is called “Diaghilev: Ahead of Time”. Moscow, 2011 (475 pages)


Biographical novel "Diaghilev: Ahead of time"

The first Russian scientific and popular biography of great Sergei Diaghilev (1872-1929) tells about the difficult and bright fate of the man who introduced Europe and other countries with Russian art and contributed to its prosperity. This remarkable man was the organizer of numerous art exhibitions, editor and publisher of art illustrated magazine «World of art» / «Mir Iskusstva», publicist, art critic, inspirer and organizer of Russian seasons in many countries (1906-1929), founder and leader of the wonderful ballet-opera enterprise «Les Ballets Russes de Diaghilev» (1909-1929).

The author began his story from his childhood (he was born in Novgorod province, where his father, officer of the Imperial guards, served; then family lived in St.-Petersburg and in Perm, which is located in the Urals), told about the numerous relatives, most of whom were gifted musicians. The atmosphere in the family contributed to his further passion for the art.

However, the real introduction with art began for S. Diaghilev in St. Petersburg, where he arrived in 1890 after graduating from gymnasium in Perm for University entrance. Thanks to his cousin Dmitry Filosophov the young fellow became the member of the youth circle of self-education, which was led by Alexandre Benois, who later became the famous artist, art critic and diarist. Friendship with the members of this group, as well as familiarity with artists, visits to museums, theatres, libraries in the capital of Russian Empire, the first trips to Western Europe contributed to the artistic education of Diaghilev, determined his future life and career.

From 1896 Diaghilev began to cooperate with the newspaper «News and Stock-Exchange Newspaper» (St.-Petersburg), to act as art critic. His articles were devoted to different art exhibitions. And in  1897 he organized his own first exposition - an Exhibition of English and German watercolors, which  marked the beginning of his long-term exhibition activities. Soon, he told his friends about the idea of creating Art Association, which later was named «World of art».

The next step in Diaghilev's artistic activity was the creation by him (with the help of his friends) the first art illustrated magazine «World of art» (1898-1904) in Russia, which was focused on creativity of modern Russian and Western artists and craftsmen and creativity of the masters of the past. In each issue of the magazine Diaghilev, who acted in it as the editor, and soon as the publisher of the magazine, issued not only lots of articles, art news but also numerous works of artists.

In the book, based on numerous (including, for the first time published) the archival documents, Diaghilev's correspondence with Russian and foreign cultural figures, the diaries and memoirs of contemporaries, the readers can learn a lot about the difficulties, with which the editorial staff faced because of misunderstanding and rejection of the concept of the magazine by many critics, including the very famous and reputable in Russia in the late XIX - early XX century art critic V. V. Stasov.

Diaghilev, who was the very energetic and ambitious person, successfully combined editorial, publishing and exhibition activities. Despite frequent criticism in the press, he continued to defend his artistic position: according his mind, the artist had to have freedom of expression, the Russian artists needed to learn the art of Western masters and to participate in art exhibitions, which took place in the countries of Western Europe.

Diaghilev’s special concern as the magazine editor and publicist was the study the Russian art since 1902, first and foremost, the painting of the XVIIIth century. His huge merit was the re – «opening» for his contemporaries the creativity of such masters of past years, as Levitsky, Borovikovsky, Rokotov and other Russian portrait-painters.

Diaghilev published in the «World of art» not only biographical information about Dmitry Levitsky, but many of his works, for example, reproductions of seven portraits under the title «Smolyanky» (referring to the pupils of the privileged Smolny Institute for noble maidens). These paintings were absolute masterpieces.

Diaghilev continued his research about the activities of several prominent Russian artists of the XVIIIth century. He planned to publish the multi-volume «History of Russian painting of the XVIIIth century», in each volume to tell art lovers about the works of the distinguished portrait painter. In 1904 the first volume, dedicated to Dmitry Levitsky, was issued. For this art, scientific and journalistic work, Diaghilev was awarded by the Imperial Academy of Sciences  the prestigious Uvarov prize (literary). Information about such kind of event was published in the newspaper «Governmental Herald».

The popularity of Diaghilev as an art critic, editor and organizer of art exhibitions was so great that he was invited to work in the Directorate of Imperial theatres. His main duty was the editing of the «Yearbook of the Imperial Theatres». With the help of his fellow artists he was able to turn an ordinary business issue into luxury art magazine, richly decorated. His efforts were appreciated by many fans of theatrical art, including, by Emperor Nicholas II. However, some officials were jealous of Diaghilev’s success, they began to intrigue against him, and in the year and a half after the beginning of his service in the Directorate of the Imperial theatres, Diaghilev had to leave his post.

The book describes in detail Diaghilev’s preparation to conduct art-Historical exhibition of Russian portraits of the XVIIIth century - the beginning of XXth century, known in history of art as the Tauride art exhibition (1905). Diaghilev's main merit consisted in the fact that, having visited during the summer of 1904 102 noble manors in different regions of the Russian Empire, he gathered in private collections to be exhibited more than two thousand portraits of Russian artists of the past, unknown to art historians and art lovers, as well as many beautiful sculptures and ancient icons. The exhibition became a landmark event in the history of Russian art. Unfortunately, it had to be closed earlier than scheduled due to the outbreak of the First Russian revolution (1905-1907).

The author describes in detail the causes of forced departure of Diaghilev from Russia, the main of which was the impossibility of self-actualization because of the difficult political situation in the country. So, the impresario decided to show Russian art to Western Europe, and, gathering the remnants of the Taurian exhibition, took the works of art to Paris. Exhibition was opened in 1906 in the French capital, and had the huge success and went down in history of world art as the First Russian season (Dyagilev organized twenty three Russian seasons during 1906-1929).

In 1907 Diaghilev staged in Paris a cycle of five Russian historical concerts in Paris (Grand Opera), introducing the French to the Russian classical music and then becoming the figure of the world level in the world of art. In 1908 the premiere of the Opera «Boris Godunov» with Fedor Chaliapin in the title role took place there. Since then, the singer, as the impresario, became a world celebrity.

The author of the book in detail acquaints the readers with further plans of Diaghilev and their implementation. In 1909, the main task of the great impresario was the creation (which soon became the world-famous) opera and ballet entreprise «Les Ballets Russes de Diaghilev» / «Russian ballet of Diaghilev» (1909-1929). Each of the subsequent chapters of the biography of the great impresario talks about the new Russian season, about the actors, artists, musicians, writers, participated in the creation of many wonderful ballets and operas.

Lovers of theatrical art from different countries for many years applauded Diaghilev and his troupe. The great impresario could and loved to «light» bright theatre stars. Among those who largely owes him their world fame such artists as Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky, Mikhail Fokine, Leonid Massine, Bronislava Nijinska, Serge Lifar, George Balanchine, Alicia Markova, Boris Kohno and many others. The author tells in detail about the work of each of them with the great impresario. Many of these artists and their colleagues have left heartfelt memories of Sergei Diaghilev.

Sure, his creative UPS alternated with dips. The last of them were not associated with errors of impresario and his associates, but with the lack of finance for new productions, often associated with the complicated political situation in Europe during the First world war. But Diaghilev, after experiencing failure, again went to the treasured purpose - to delight viewers around the world with beautiful works of theatrical art.

In the last years of his life, Diaghilev became interested in collecting rare books. It became his spiritual need, this passion, which he gave a lot of his time, effort and money. In the biographical book is told how he collected valuable old books in different countries, as he was lucky to inherit the granddaughter of Alexander Pushkin, Countess Sofia Torbi, and got from her several letters of the great Russian poet to his wife, Natalya Goncharova. Impresario dreamed about the creating of the cultural center in which he wanted to keep the most valuable his books, as well as to continue to pursue theatrical productions. However, his death in Venice in 1929 prevented the realization of all his grand plans.

Sergei Diaghilev was the man, who went ahead of his time. That is why, as stressed by the author, his creative legacy was included in the Golden Fund of world art. People in many countries, highly appreciate his activities, despite the fact that Diaghilev died many years ago - in 1929. His life-affirming art is always with us.

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