Author's School

Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

Author's Department/Program

Art History and Archaeology


English (en)

Date of Award

Summer 8-1-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Chair and Committee

John Richard Klein


This thesis examines the phenomenon of easel painters designing for ballet companies in Paris in the 1910s and 1920s. It focuses on the work of Picasso for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and Léger for De Maré's Ballets Suédois between 1917 and 1925, and considers the consequences for these artists' studio practice of their involvement in dance theatre. Their work is situated in the historical context of Wagner’s influential notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk—total theatre synthesizing all the arts, including painting—and its reinterpretation by avant-garde theatre practitioners from the mid-nineteenth into the early twentieth century. Picasso’s and Léger’s stage designs reveal the dynamic relationship between modern art and performance: especially dance) in the early inter-war years, and are seen as pivotal in the emergence of design as an active agent, dehumanizing the dancers themselves—the performance of art—that characterized dance productions in those years. Their theatrical experiments influenced design for dance, opera and musical theatre throughout the twentieth century, and is still seen today.


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