Images of Nijinsky

nijinsky_faun.jpgI have an abiding fascination with the Ballets Russes, Sergei Diaghilev‘s company which electrified the art world from 1909 up to the impressario’s death in 1929. One of the reasons for this—aside from the obvious gay dimension and the extraordinary roster of talent involved—is probably Diaghilev’s success in carrying the Symbolist impulses of the fin de siècle into the age of Modernism without losing any richness or exoticism along the way. Diaghilev’s arts magazine, Mir Iskusstva (1899–1900), was as much a product of fashionable Decadence as The Savoy, and its principles were easily transported into the world of ballet.

A big subject, then, that’ll no doubt be returned to in later postings. Looking around for images of dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky in his celebrated (and notorious) role in L’Après-midi d’un Faune turned up not only Leon Bakst’s luscious drawing but some marvelous Beardsley-esque pictures by George Barbier (1882–1932). I’d seen some of Barbier’s work before but didn’t realise he’d created a whole book devoted to the dancer. Artists like Bakst, Erté and Barbier show how Aubrey Beardsley’s art might have developed had he not died prematurely in 1898. You can see the full set of book plates here.


Nijinsky as faun by Leon Bakst (1912).


Designs on the Dances of Vaslav Nijinsky (and below) by George Barbier (1913).


L’ Apres-midi d’un Faune.



Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive
The illustrators archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Nicholas Kalmakoff, 1873–1955



My discipline here has rather collapsed since returning from Paris. Lots of things that required sorting out and the distraction of a new computer is the excuse. Time for a new announcement, however. Now that The Haunter of the Dark is back in print, work has begun at the Savoy HQ on the eventual reprinting of my comics magnum opus, Reverbstorm. This was the 8-part Lord Horror series I was producing for Savoy with David Britton that sprang directly out of my Lovecraft comics work and is, in some small way, a continuation of it (hence the inclusion of some pages in the final part of HOTD).

Reverbstorm was an attempt by Dave and I to produce a graphic novel (wretched term, but if the boot fits…) that was truly adult, at a time—the early Nineties—when much there was much discussion of “adult comics” but little worthy of the name being produced. Reverbstorm is adult in terms of its often aggressive and challenging content; so are many mainstream comics now. But it’s also adult in terms of style and technique, being laden with quotation and literary and artistic allusion that requires an understanding of some of the key works of the Modernist movement to fully appreciate. Being a Lord Horror work, there’s also plenty of reference to the fascist philosophy that Dave’s character (based on William Joyce, Lord Haw-Haw) subscribes to. Mix all this with a great deal of violence and you have a very dark work indeed, one that most readers and reviewers of the time were happy to ignore.

Well Reverbstorm is returning to the world in a definitive form. All the artwork is being scanned and cleaned (and in some cases, amended slightly); the eighth and final part will see its first publication in this new edition and there’ll be some previously unseen or unpublished material also. The series as a whole contains 270 pages of some of my best ever black and white artwork (and some great additional work from Kris Guidio) so I’m very pleased that this volume is set to appear in a form that will do justice to the years we spent creating it. Publication will probably be in autumn 2007 but watch this space for further details.

For more on the Reverbstorm series, read my short essay about its genesis here.