Sergei Diaghilev and Beyond: Les Ballets Russes

Mstislav Dobujinsky (1875-1957) > Introduction

Mstislav Dobujinsky was a famous Russian graphic artist, painter, and stage designer.  He first studied art from 1885 to 1887 at the School of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in St. Petersburg.  Then he enrolled in St. Petersburg University (graduating with a degree in Law and Jurisprudence in 1898) and later continued his art education in Munich.

In 1902, he was invited to join the World of Art (Mir Iskusstva) group in Moscow.  His first works were historical landscapes in Alexandre Benois' s manner but he soon began to portray the specific features of the contemporary industrial city.  From 1907 on, he was active as a stage designer, teacher, and book illustrator.  He left Russia in 1924 for Lithuania and later lived and worked in Paris and New York. He died in New York.

His importance as a stage designer is well recognized.  Prof. Arnold Aronson of Columbia University School of Arts writes:  "Dobujinsky is an enormously important designer.  Although less "spectacular" than Bakst and Benois, and less avant-garde than several of his contemporaries, he designed many significant productions for the Moscow Art Theater, other Russian theater and dance companies, as well as theater and opera abroad.  He serves as a link between 19thcentury realism and the Russian symbolists and other progressives." 

At the present time, the Bakhmeteff Archive at Columbia University has a significant portion of Dobujinsky's papers (29 archival boxes, i.e. 14.5 linear feet.  The rest of his collection went to Lithuania.

The Dobujinsky Papers consist of correspondence, manuscripts, documents, original art works, bibliographic notes and material on exhibitions.  There are letters from Alexandre Benois, Mikhail Chekhov, Fiodor Komissarzhevskii, Georgii Lukomskii, Nikolai Medtner, Vladimir Nabokov, Aleksandra Tolstaya, and one letter each from Ivan Bunin, Mikhail Fokin, Tyrone Guthrie, Sol Hurok and Serge Kussevitskii.  His manuscripts include essays by Dobujinsky on such topics as the Mir Iskusstva Group, Pushkin's illustrations, Aleksandr Blok, Kuz'ma Petrov-Vodkin, and José-María Sert.  There are original art works (pen and ink, gouache, etc) relating to his theatrical productions.

Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 /