Colour in Daily Life

I’ve been thinking about colour, because I treated myself to the big V&A book on Diaghilev, which is most sumptuously illustrated: a lot more of the actual costumes survive than I’d known about, and they’re quite extraordinary. It’s often been said that the Ballets Russes’s explosion of colour produced a sort of Russian revolution in European taste, and looking at these costumes, you can see why. However, what strikes you above all is the variety: you turn the page and one wonderful, unexpected combination succeeds another. As it happens, I also had on the desk a catalogue of spring offerings from a posh lady gardener who is making a great deal of money out of telling the bourgeoisie to buck up their ideas in a loud, clear, confident voice — testimony, probably, to a masochistic streak in English middle classes, since she stays in business year after year selling things for anything up to ten times market value. It was only lying about while we had a good laugh at the prices, but it did strike me that, by contrast to Diaghilev’s extraordinarily inventive designers, she’s only ever had one idea. A good one: combining orange, maroon and lime green, but only, really, the one. However, the V&A book went into aspects of Diaghilev’s influence, from which I discovered the originator of the most truly horrible colour combination ever to return like Dracula every few years (which it does): leaf green with dark turquoise. I remember it in the seventies (with the optional addition of chocolate brown), it’s surfaced a good few times since, and when we visited Dr Biswell in Manchester last summer, it was well to the fore in a number of expensive looking shops. Anyway, I can now name the guilty party: Paul Poiret, of all people. You’d think he’d have had more sense.

5 Responses to “Colour in Daily Life”

  1. cp Says:

    Sent for the Diaghilev. It IS gorgeous, about every subject it treats. Wanted it, but also needed it, as I did all the books on Balanchine and the DVDs. Gorey ex in Boston crammed at the reception, although it is easy to cram the Athenaeum, even on a vv cold night. Now have to ring our director of the University Art Gallery to think about fund-raising and about other activities we should like to have at the same time. Tables for the recepion had nearly black cloths and vases with figbash flowers.

  2. Jane Says:

    Did you see that a tiny bit of Ballets Russes in rehearsal popped up on the net the other day? Les Sylphides. I’m sure you could Google it. I haven’t worked out who the male lead is. I take it you’ve got the ‘Ballets Russes’ DVD which is mostly American?

  3. Jane Says:

    Serge Lifar, sa the Guardian, who give the clip:

  4. cp Says:

    No, don’t have the BR DVD - sounds as if it comes from the period of WWII, when the Ballet Russe had to be quartered, as it were, in America. No bad thing, given Kirstein. I love the opening of his letter to Austin at the Wadsworth:this may be the most important letter I have ever sent to you.
    This was earlier, 1933, and the letter was the start of the negotiation for Balanchine - and, effectively, for a wonderful turn for American dance. Am resisting going this week to the Maryinsky, in town for just 7 performances of SL.
    Perhaps I must.

  5. Jane Says:

    This is a film by Dayna Goldfine & Dan Geller, catching the lsst survivors while still above ground.

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