Free for educational use
Year of production - 2006
Duration - 5min 0sec
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Ballet Russe is an episode of the series Hidden Treasures (15 × 5 mins) produced in 2006.
The National Gallery of Australia has more than 100,000 works in its collection—an extraordinary reservoir of creative vision and cultural history, from decorative arts to photography and sculpture.
Yet on a visit to the gallery, you’ll see only the tip of this iceberg. Carefully stored away are the things that can’t be placed on permanent display.
These unseen gems include works of exquisite fragility, from brilliant hand-painted fabrics to delicate works on paper. From Australia, the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Oceania, there are masks and carvings, lithographs and linocuts, set designs and stage costumes, sketchpads and handprinted books, marionettes and maquettes, teapots and textiles, and much, much more.
Now in this series of micro-docs, former director of the gallery Betty Churcher presents an insider’s guide to some of these 'hidden treasures’.
In the entertaining, accessible style for which she is renowned, Betty Churcher takes us behind the scenes, sharing with us her passion and insights. From her unique vantage point, she makes intriguing connections between a range of different objects and artists, linking them to the stories that surround them.
These are fascinating tales—about the works themselves, the people who created them and the challenge of preserving them—and a tantalising look at some of the ideas and influences that have shaped modern art across the globe.
A Film Australia National Interest Program in association with Early Works. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.Full program credits
When Betty Churcher joined the National Gallery of Australia in 1990, the first 'hidden treasure’ she found was one of the world’s finest collections of costumes from the celebrated Ballets Russes.
Commissioned in Paris by Serge Diaghilev for his revolutionary troupe of dancers, many of these gorgeous costumes have been handpainted by radical young artists who were to become giants of 20th century art, among them: Henri Matisse, Giorgio de Chirico, Natalia Goncharova and Jean Cocteau.
Without Diaghilev, the course of modern art could well have been different, because he had the entrepreneurial flair to hear and celebrate the drumbeat of a new century.
His genius lay in spotting genius in others. He brought together in creative collaboration some of the most original, inventive and difficult young artists of the early 1900s, such as the painter Pablo Picasso, the dancer Vaslav Nijinsky and the composer Igor Stravinsky.
Among the stars in the National Gallery of Australia’s collection is Matisse’s design for the Chief Mourner in the Song of the Nightingale.
There’s also Leon Baskt’s costume designed for Nijinsky in The Blue God. It is marked with his make-up, which the gallery’s conservators carefully preserve—for the stains are as much a part of history as the costume itself.
After Diaghilev’s death in 1929, a number of new groups followed his original troupe. When the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo toured Australia in 1940, Sidney Nolan was commissioned to design the sets and costumes for Icare—adding his own brand of poetic lyricism and his Australian accent to this artistic treasure-trove.
Digital resources using the clip - Ballet Russe
Clips on Screen Australia’s Digital Learning site have been used to build multiple learning resources. This list shows all resources using the clip ‘Ballet Russe’. Follow the links below to see curriculum-specific learning resources built around this clip.