This beautiful illustration is from George Barbier and Francis de Miomandre’s Designs on the Dances of Vaslav Nijinsky. The work was published in London by C. W. Beaumont in 1913. The image is of the legendary dancer Nijinsky in Scheherazade, Carnaval, and L’Apres-midi d’un Faune and was printed on vellum. The work was limited to 400 in publication. “The designs, although somewhat fantastic in treatment, do convey the impression produced by Nijinsky in his famous characters.” (Beaumont)
“In his brief time, Nijinsky was the most famous male dancer in the world, a pre-eminence due in part to his extraordinary virtuosity. But it was not his virtuosity alone that made him such a powerful stage presence. As contemporary reports make clear, Nijinsky was a great and unusual actor. The ideal Fokine interpreter, he was able to expand a simple choreographic design into a rich dramatic portrait, using, in keeping with Fokine’s dicta, the whole body as an expressive instrument. Nijinsky’s influence as a dancer was immediate and huge. That ballet, nearly extinguished artistically in western Europe, was revived in this century is due to him and other great dancers of his generation, such as Anna and Karsavina, as well as to Diaghilev. That male ballet, utterly extinguished, was also revived is due to him preeminently. Nijinsky was the first real ballet star of the male sex that Europe had seen since the retirement of Auguste Vestris nearly a century earlier. He initiated a renaissance.” (Cohen The International Encyclopedia of Dance Vol. 4, pp. 646-648)
George Barbier (1882-1932) was one of the greatest French artists of the early 20th century. He first exhibited in 1911 at the age of 29 where he gained many commissions to design costumes and illustrate works, fashion in particular. Barbier led a group nicknamed by Vogue “The Knights of the Bracelet” formed from artists from the Ecole des Beaux Arts and including Monvel, Brissaud, Iribe, Lepape, and Martin. Beyond his illustrations, Barbier created jewelry, glass and wallpaper design.