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It would not be an exaggeration to say that much of Russian artistic culture in the first two decades of the 20th century was theatricalised. The work that Russian painters did in the theatre was intimately integrated and synthesised with all of the other elements of a production. Many artists of the World of Art Movement were instrumental in revolutionising the theatrical arts in Russia at the invitation and under the direction of Sergei Diaghilev. Following the pioneering steps of Konstantin Korovin, many artists, including Nicholas Roerich, Alexander Benois, Leon Bakst, Mstislav Dobuzhinski and later the avant-garde painters Natalia Goncharova, Mikhail Larionov and Kazimir Malevich, among others, incarnated in their work a synthesis of the arts with music at its heart. They combined composition, visual design and colour with word, movement and music to express a fundamental unity between the arts that not only transformed opera and ballet as evidenced by the success of the Ballets Russes in Europe, but also transformed their painting.

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Copyright © 2013 Niyogi Books. This chapter first appeared in Nicholas Roerich: A Quest and A Legacy.

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