The “Ballet Russe” (Russian Ballet Company), were known for their alternative creative expression. Their productions were not just about technique, but also a freedom of movement, where an individual was important rather than just a corps. Most interesting was their collaboration of dancers & choreographers with set designers & musicians. Key designers utilised by Ballet Russe were Leon Bakst, Pablo Picasso and Natalia Goncharova, whose work was influenced by Cubism, Fauvism and Folk Art.
Another artist/designer whose work was utilised by the world of Theatre was Alphonse Mucha. Born 1860 Moravia, (modern Czech Republic), he studied art in Austria and Germany then moved to Paris in 1887 where he struggled to make a living as a graphic artist producing book illustrations and calendar art.
In 1895 he was commissioned to create a poster for Sarah Bernhardt’s play, “Gismonda”. The immediate success that followed, the originality and sensitivity of Mucha's new style and wide public appreciation, made the legendary actress sign him to a six-year contract to design posters, stage sets and costumes for her plays.
By 1898, Mucha had become a famous and creative Art Nouveau artist. He designed and published postcards, theatre and advertisement posters, numerous illustrations and decorative panels series, set around central themes inspired by nature.
His graphic works are based on “a strong centered composition and symbolic themes, featuring idealized young female figures in sensuous or provocative poses, entwined in vaporous hair and light dresses enriched by decorative ornaments inspired by nature, such as willowy foliage, flowers and extravagantly beautiful jewels. The figures are detailed by expressive darker lines and enriched by natural soft colors and gold; functional and decorative friezes usually frame the illustrations and the background space is filled by floral or abstract patterns.”
Another man of Eastern European origins whose successful art worked with symbolism, nature and the female form was Gustav Klimt. He was the founding member of the Vienna Secession, a group who promoted unconventional young artists to bring their foreign works to Vienna and publish a magazine to showcase their work. The group declared no manifesto and did not set out to encourage any particular style -- Naturalists, Realists, and Symbolists all coexisted. The government supported their efforts and gave them a lease on public land to erect an exhibition hall. The group's symbol was Pallas Athena, the Greek goddess of just causes, wisdom, and the arts—and Klimt painted his radical version in 1898. Poster by Klimt for Viennese Secessionists.
The Viennese Secessionists were artists who broke away from the conservative Austrian Association of Artists. They adopted the name, Union of Austrian Artists, taken in solidarity with artist unions in Paris and Munich. The Secessionists adopted many of the ideals of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement, particularly in areas of art education and social improvements. They encouraged all artistic mediums and introduced the new art movements of Impressionism, Art Nouveau and artist-craftsmen in their exhibitions.