Puslapio vaizdai

chizedek, and when wounded in battle he would be borne back to this spring, and while he himself said the office of healing, was bathed in the waters and made whole. There was no wealth of marble and gems bedecking it then, and no palaces of Sikh chiefs surrounding it; for they lived hard and desperately until by force of arms they had won control of all the Panjab.

About a hundred years ago their various tribes were confederated, and it was then, under the infamous and magnificent Ranjit Singh, that the temple blossomed. First round the spring, foursquare, and measuring two hundred paces each way, they built a broad terrace of white marble, so that the spring became a lake, and thousands could bathe in it. They planted the terrace with trees and yellow laburnums, and round it rose the palaces of the chieftains, their chapels and their divans; and these walls and the trees, as they grew, gave shade to the saints and sages who meditated there and looked on the healing waters. There came, too, those who were sick of all manner of diseases. The lame and the blind came there, and the lepers with their snows. And the lame walked, and the blind looked wonderfully on the waters that had given back to them their sight, and to the lepers was their flesh restored, with melting of their unclean snows, and became as the flesh of young children, and their sinews as of the young men who go out to battle. And if those who had lost hand or foot but bathed in the holy lake, the lost member stood forth again on the stump, and they praised God.

In the shade sit the crippled and the palsied, and among them, like a gardenbed of young tulips, sits an assembly of school-children, with yellow turbans and chubby faces and multicolored waistcoats, learning their letters. Their master is a grave, black-bearded Sikh who from time to time gives his class a remission for ten minutes to chat together like daws in rainbow feathers, and he strips himself to the loin-cloth and bathes in the windless waters. Then with dripping beard and runneling hair he calls back his class.

Just where the stem with the golden bud sprouted from the encompassing terrace they built a solemn, square gate-house, and covered the doors of it outside with plates of silver-of pure silver chased and beaten into columns and paneling; and all

the back of the door that faces the marble causeway they inlaid with ivory and sandalwood. Outside and within they spread stucco of marble dust over the walls, and on bronze plates covered with gold they wrote the names of saints and sages, and of warriors who had fallen in their wars; and for the rest they painted on it gardens upon gardens of flowers, lily and rose and fritillary. The roof of the gateway they wrought into cells and fretwork of gilded bronze, and inlaid into it a thousand mirrors, so that it shines and twinkles like a company of fireflies.

A doorkeeper stands there who, as you enter, gives you marigold flowers and yellow trumpets of fragrant jasmine: perhaps he has a garland of threaded blossoms which he places round your neck, or else just an unminted handful of this aromatic gold. These you must cast upon the waters of the sacred lake, on the surface of which hundreds are floating, thrown there with prayers by suppliants and pious worshipers.

You will have left your unhallowed shoes behind you before you enter the sanctuary, and have put on the leather slippers of the faithful. On each side, leaning against the low balustrade of fretted marble, lie the sick and the cripples, and on each side are stately, gilded lanterns with tall, marble standards. In front blossoms the golden temple, flower-like, built of white marble, and all its upper story and its domes and its turrets are of bronze thickly covered with gold; and on domes and cornices and column-heads there cluster and hover, like bees, innumerable pigeons with breasts of pearl and broken iris. From within come strange chantings and the beating of a drum, and for the moment, as you step inside out of the blaze of the day, the darkness is impenetrable.

Soon it clears, and you see the lines of priests and squatting worshipers, and, presiding over them, the chief priest, in front of whom lies the holy book of the Sikhs. In the manner of psalmody, he chants one verse, and priests and worshipers, strident with zeal, answer him with the next, beating out the marvelous rhythm of the text with drum-taps and blaring bugles. Under the middle of the dome, with lines of the worshipers at the sides, is spread an embroidered silk sheet, upon which they cast their marigold flowers and their jas

mine; and when the time of roses comes, the sheet will be covered with their pale petals. Round this central inclosure runs a corridor of white marble, with square embrasures opening upon the holy lake, and over all the walls are inlaid, in jasper and agate and carnelian, flowers and birds and beasts. A staircase at each corner leads to an upper story, where in an alcove sits a holy man meditating over the book of scriptures, and in another chamber sits a very young priest, grave and onyx-eyed, who looks long at you, and bows his head in remote salutation as you pass on. Then ascending once more, you mount the dome-crowned turrets at the corners, and look out over the sacred lake and the marble terrace.

Already the sun declines to its setting, and the shadows of dome and minaret creep silently across the lake. The splendor fades from the gold as the shade of the surrounding palaces falls over it, and

it glows with a white lambency. For ten enchanted minutes out of the paleness there dawns a red flush of sundown, then out of the shadows there steals like a ghost a film of pearly iridescent mist that mounts and fades to ash-color. The young priest rises in moonlike calm from his meditation, and walks slim and grave down the marble causeway; the chief priest shuts the sacred book, and the chanting ceases; the aged holy man, leaning on the shoulder of his disciple, shuffles bent and tottering between the lines of the infirm. These draw their tattered clothing round them, for the air has grown chilly; the school breaks up and disperses like spilled quicksilver. But the sick and the cripples linger and look back before they go. And it would not seem strange if One came walking on the waters, and there were gathered round Him, as once before when the sun was set, the sick and the lame and the blind, and He healed them.





HE art of Léon Bakst is one of the stirring forces of the day. He is the magician of color, and is doing daring things. In color he is doing what Rimsky-Korsakof and Andreef have done in Russian music and literature. He has widened the field of our sensations, for he has gone beyond the usual and ordinary, and has plunged into a new realm.

He began life humbly, having been born of poor Jewish parents in St. Petersburg in 1868. He studied in the fine arts school of his native city, but worked fifteen years with dogged perseverance before recognition came. By turns he painted strictly conventional and the most daringly original paintings. But one day a grand duchess saw his painting of Salome, recognized that it contained something remarkable, and provided the necessary means for him to go to Paris, where he studied and worked for some years.

Finally came the turning-point in his


From being almost a proscribed person in Russia, Bakst became, after his first success, a fêted man in Paris, and was acclaimed the founder of a new school in decoration. In London, too, through the success of the Russian ballet, he became the latest word; for this fortunate artist maintains a studio in London and another in Paris.

Until within the last fifteen years no serious attempt had been made to have scenic decoration in the theater truly artistic.

The new movement in the theater, as represented in the Künstler-Theater in Munich, the Théâtre d'Art in Moscow, the art of Mariano Fortuny in Berlin, and of Gordon Craig in England, is significant. The results have been successful and far-reaching in their import.


America we have scarcely heard the distant echoes. The notable exception is in the scenery painted by Jules Guérin for "Cleopatra," the opening production at the New Theatre in New York. Perhaps the production of "Pelléas and Mélisande" at the Manhattan Opera-House may also be excepted.

Bakst is the chief representative abroad of this new movement. Other men of the younger school in Russia, notably Boris Ainsfeld, Benois, and Roerich, are prominently connected with it; but it is from Bakst that the chief inspiration comes.

It was Serge de Daighilew of the opera in St. Petersburg who first suggested to Bakst that he interest himself in stage designing, and it was under the direction of Daighilew that Bakst attained his great success in designing the costumes for the Russian ballet, now become vastly popular and revolutionary in its methods. The Russian ballet has given Bakst his opportunity for recognition, but it is dependent upon his genius for its appeal. It is in the fusion of music, dance, painting, and costume-designing that the ballet is incomparable.

Bakst paints his scenery with masses of color that have a significant relation to the hidden spirit of the drama. He uses the stage-settings as a background against which the costumes of actors or dancers are in effective contrast or in harmony. His purpose is to extract the essential; it is not to be naturalistic, but to convey the impression of the emotion of the play, which is more effectively achieved by color than in any other way. This effect is obtained not by imitating nature, but by symbolic representation and decorative effect. In this lies the chief point of divergence between the art of his precursors and his own.

In Russia the art of the ballet was not allowed to sink into desuetude as in other European countries. Subsidized by the state, it has been the vital expression of the Russian people, and has commanded the services of the best artists. Dancers trained to interpret emotion rather than merely to portray the empty forms of an outgrown art gave their life to the art of the ballet and put into it a new element. Pavlowa, Nijinsky, and Karsavina vitalized the old forms. The dancing of Isadora Duncan, who made a sensation in

St. Petersburg before the Russian ballet appeared outside of their native country, had a decided effect on the form, added the element of the bacchanal, and gave breadth and freedom until then not employed. The Russians have built upon and added to Miss Duncan's art.

In November an exhibition of Bakst's paintings was held in New York that was the most complete that has yet been attempted. This collection of water-colors and drawings will also be exhibited in some other of our important cities.

The water-color designs for the ballet costumes are daringly imaginative, startling in their turbulence, linked with a realism of a purely sensual type. The dancers are by turns Arabic, Greek, Muscovite, or Nubian, glowing with the intoxication of life and movement. The drawings are powerful, exquisite in detail, with a masterly expression in line and great feeling for form. The figures are bizarre, weird, frankly sensual creations of a hectic imagination, glowing with color, and vibrating with movement.

That Bakst will prove of interest to us here in America, where he is virtually unknown, is undoubted. America has always taken delight in the expression of the Russian art spirit, whether in music, as represented by Tschaikovsky and RimskyKorsakof, or in her men of letters, such as Turgenieff, Tolstoy, and Gorky.

The expression of the Russian genius is always profoundly interesting to America, perhaps by reason of a kindred feeling in their wild striving for freedom, which evinces itself in the newly awakened political life of the people, and penetrates to every fiber of the life of the nation. Russian art has been articulate only since 1835; as the art language is growing into maturity it announces itself with startling emphasis. There is an untried strength, an energy, of a new nation in the music, literature, and painting that stimulates and fascinates. Russia has lain fallow through long centuries; as the unused force is bursting into flower, the fragrance of a peculiar richness, born of tropical luxuriance and the stamina of the North, is being manifest.

Léon Bakst has the very roots of his genius sunk deep in the soil of Russia. He could not escape it if he would. The rich Byzantine origin of the peasant art

of Russia speaks in his barbaric, chromatic of this ballet was a composition of orange and vivid blue. The columns and walls of the great hall of the queen were orange, flooded with a golden light; the blue Nile was seen in the distance, amid the golden sands of the desert, while the frieze of the room was blue. The only other colors visible were seen in the costumes of the dancers.

But not alone does the artist give expression to fierce animal passions; he is equally adaptable to the rarer air of "Narcisse" and D'Annunzio's "St. Sebastian," in which Ida Rubinstein was so effective. To see the moonlight scene in "Boris Godunoff" is to know that Bakst is poetic. The last-named opera, it is claimed, has never been given a truly representative production outside of Russia, for none but Russians can adequately interpret the emotions and the music.

coloring, elemental in intensity. Russia's peasant art has deeply impressed itself in the picturesque dress of the women, in the embroideries, the decoration of their houses, even the very humblest, and is most closely associated with the feelings and lives of the people. The gorgeous vestments of the Greek clergy and the interiors of their churches, with the deep glow of gold and precious stones, feeds the barbaric feeling for color and richness, and becomes part of the unconscious inheritance of the Russian artist.

As Russia looks both east and west, so Bakst's mind partakes in almost equal degree of the Orient and the Occident. He has the vision of the Asiatic, which dreams dreams, with the reason and sensuous perception of the Greek. Primarily Bakst sought his inspiration in the Persian illuminations, with their wealth of color and detail; secondarily in the Greek dancing figures just before the decadent period. Realism and imagination are both part of his mental equipment, and find expression with equal intensity. He did not copy the designs on the Greek vases or of the Persian illuminators; rather he assimilated and transmuted into something quite his own the richness and beauty of the elder art.

In the ballet of "Scheherazade," as his most characteristic work, the elemental, sensuous note dominates. Consequently there is not visible a touch of white, the symbol of innocence and purity. Instead there is a riot of indigo blues, emerald greens, and flame-colored reds, all instinctively sensual. But he obtains, nevertheless, real harmonious chords with his blatant palette, which is astonishingly successful in conveying the impression of the stifling atmosphere of the harem without being vulgar.

In "Cleopatra," on which Bakst made his reputation, his touch is lighter, more subtle and suggestive. The costumes become the expression of the soul of the dancer; they do not drape the body so much as they are the externalization of the weird spirits that dance in them. They are clothing for the soul rather than for the body, and as such are vibrant, passionate. The coloring of the stage-setting

There are interesting possibilities of development in this new art of the drama that bid fair to change the conception of dramatic art. The movement is only in its infancy. In the new ballet the designs and colors of costume and decoration take the place of the spoken word, and are quite as eloquent as interpreters of the emotions; the spoken word seems superfluous when we are swayed in turn by the rhythm of the dancers, their expressive pantomime, the harmony of the music and the vibrations, and the riotous assemblage of color and decoration.

Whether the influence of Bakst will prove lasting cannot be foreseen. It will undoubtedly leave a marked effect. Perhaps the reaction from the cold, flat clay tones and rigid discipline of our Puritan ancestors is responsible for this mad orgy of colors and the senses. We cannot but feel that the future will take what this splendid barbarian has given us, and lead it to a higher expression. Bakst has helped us to break away from tradition, to find a new realm in the emotional value of color, line, and mass; but we still await a genius who will take what we now have, purge it somewhat of animalism, keeping the force, but awakening a new flaming spirit. We are learning to demand a new beauty and interest, a revelation of the beauty of the "beyondness of things," which alone satisfies.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]

Eight Designs for Costumes

From the Color Sketches by
Léon Bakst

« AnkstesnisTęsti »