Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929) was a famous theatrical and artistic worker, founder of the World of Art, impresario, founder of the Ballet Russes and Diaghilev’s Ballet. Great-nephew of the composer P.I. Tchaikovsky.

Diaghilev's youth passed in St. Petersburg, where during his studies at the university he became interested in painting and became one of the founders of the World of Art association. The first stage in Diaghilev's career was the organization of a series of exhibitions by contemporary European and Russian artists, which were held with great success. After joining the Imperial Theaters, he was appointed editor of the Yearbook of the Imperial Theaters and reformed the publication, turning it into a high-quality art magazine with several supplements, quality illustrations and literary articles.


In 1906, with the help of influential patrons, he held the first Historical Russian Concert in Paris, presenting Russian opera to the French public, and in 1909 - ballet. The success of Russian ballet performances was so overwhelming that it contributed to the wave of fashion "for everything Russian" that swept Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. The tour of the entreprise became annual, gradually expanding its geography from Paris to other European cities, London, the USA and South America. After the revolutions of 1917, the troupe ceased contact with Russia and continued to work under the name of Diaghilev until his death in 1929.

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The Diaghilev family.

S. Diaghilev (right) 1885


"Mir Iskusstva" 

("The World of Art")

Participants of the «Russian Historical Concerts in Paris» visiting composer Camille Saint-Saens. Paris, 1907

Diaghilev possessed rare organizational skills, had a delicate artistic taste and a special flair, which helped him from year to year to find new names and create "stars" from his protégés. Many artists and composers, as well as a galaxy of dancers, owed their international fame to Diaghilev. At the same time, contemporaries remembered him as a controversial figure, a person with a complex character, who often violated personal agreements and financial obligations.


In his later years, as well as continuing to lead the Ballets Russes, Diaghilev became an avid collector of rare books and manuscripts. Much of his collection has now been acquired by various university libraries. 

Sergei Diaghilev’s "Russian Seasons" project of the early 20th century had a great significance for the Russian musical and dancing art.

Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky

Playbill to the

"Russian Seasons"

By Valentin Serov