Jun 09, 2022 - Sale 2608

Sale 2608 - Lot 155

Price Realized: $ 6,500
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 10,000 - $ 15,000


Stage design for "Romeo and Juliet."

Created for the 1921 performance of the ballet, based on William Shakespeare's play, at Alexander Tairov's Kamerny (Chamber) Theatre. Gouache on paper. 190x242 mm; 7 1/2x9 1/2 inches, full sheet. Signed on verso. Float-mounted in archival frame allowing for signature to show and provenance labels mounted to verso (15 1/2x17 1/2 inches).
Provenance: Walter F. Maibaum Fine Arts; Rosa Esman Gallery (their label with certification by Alma Law, Professor of History of Drama, Columbia University, New York); private collection, New York.

Born to a Belarusian father and Greek mother, Exter was one of the greatest set and costume designers of her generation. Her painting studio in Kyiv was a center for Ukraine's artists and intelligentsia. She joined the Russian avant-garde and often exhibited her work abroad. As an avowed Cubo-Futurist, she at first embraced the Russian Revolution but emigrated to Paris in 1924 where she established herself as an important Art Deco artist.

While still in Soviet Russia, she aligned herself with director Alexander Tairov and Moscow's experimental Kamerny Theater. Her radical use of stage space is evident in the last of her three Constructivist stage designs for this theater for Romeo and Juliet that opened on May 17, 1921.

'In both the play and paintings there are interpenetrating diagonal networks of bars and wedges; in the play these relationships can be read as the visual equivalent to the tangled intrigues in this adapted translation of Shakespeare's tragedy. The different levels of the vertical set were transformed into whatever scenic location was required by the addition or subtraction of curtains. So Exter showed how, in a flash, the outdoor fight scene could become the indoor ball scene" (Ronny H. Cohen, "Alexandra Exter's Designs for the Theater," Artforum, Summer 1981, p. 49).