n Slavic Almanac : The South African Journal for Slavic, Central and Eastern European Studies - The artistic engagement of Marie Vassilieff in the cultural space of 20th-century Paris

Volume 18, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1025-3386


This article presents an overview of the rich and diverse creative output of Marie Vassilieff - a painter and sculptor as well as a master of the applied arts - in the cultural space of 20th-century Paris. The analysis is based on problematic and interpretational determinants which focus on the most important forms of creative activity of this French-Russian artist, such as her academic and practical endeavours, her participation in creative discourse as a female cubist artist, her experimentation and the Slavonic tradition in her art, and (last but not least) her presence in the space of theatre and ballet, in the world of puppet design and ballroom-related activities. The creative endeavours of the artist are presented against a number of selected fields in which she distinguished herself, including the education of artists (Academié Marie Vassilieff, Parisian atelier), exhibitions, and charity campaigns to assist the cosmopolitan bohemians who were typical of the Montparnasse district. The cubist paintings of Vassilieff are analysed in the context of European art (Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, Georges Braque), Russian folklore and Orthodox Christian tradition ( phenomenon, icon, etc.). The themes of children, motherhood and love in Vassileff's paintings, as well as her male and female portraits, are all affected by the stylistic diversification of her language of artistic expression, and all constitute the feminine element which is viewed as a part of feminist discourse. Vassilieff's activities in the sphere of Parisian theatre and ballet, and her cooperation with theatre directors, choreographers, fashion designers and composers (such as Géza Blattner, Rolf de Maré, Jean Berlin, Gilbert Baur, Claude Duboscq, Paul Poiret, Gaston Baty, Louise Mutant-Lara) show her to have been a talented designer (of sets, costumes and masks for the theatre and ballet). However, she mainly distinguished herself as a master of the art of puppetry, which is rooted in the avant-garde experiment (grotesque puppet-portraits, puppet-masks, puppets in poses, mechanical puppet-heads). Here she, too, turned for inspiration to the French tradition of folk theatre and the Russian (Guignol, Pietruszka, Pierrot) - an influence which can also be detected in other manifestations of her artistic expression (painting, sculpture, objets d'art, ceramics). Her contribution to the ballroom culture is evident in her costume designs and in her roles as a decorator and designer of posters.

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


Article metrics loading...


This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error