Diaghilev by Richard Buckle

To an even greater extent than Buckle’s Nijinsky (1972), this study of the Russian Ballet’s impresario-visionary fails as a biography while succeeding mightily as a juicily researched, tapestry-detailed chunk of cultural history.

Middle-class, musically-educated Diaghilev–that self-declared «incorrigible sensualist» and restless devotee of «art for art’s sake»–certainly was a charismatic catalyst, a tastemaker, even (as Buckle Claims) a «creative genius»; and he easily holds center-stage during his youthful 18901905 exploits–organizing exhibits of new painters and old Russian treasures, publishing (with Bakst and Benois) The World of Art, feuding as sometime-employee of the Imperial Theatres.

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