Mir iskusstva

Mir iskusstva (Russian: «Мир искусства», IPA: [ˈmʲir ɪˈskustvə], World of Art) is an artistic movement founded in 1890 by a group of Russian intellectuals led by Sergei Diaghilev. The members of the group were scholars, art lovers, educated and refined, from a social background far removed from that of the Peredvizhniki, whose members came largely from modest backgrounds.

The followers of Mir Iskusstva had in common a European cultural root derived from their travels abroad or from their foreign origin: Alexandr Benois descended from a French emigrant, Leon Rosenberg, called Bakst, and Isaac Levitan were Jews. They all lived in St. Petersburg and met to translate French poets and discuss French painting, which they believed to be the best source of renewal in art. Hostile to the aesthetics of the Peredvizhniki (proponents of realistic representation of events), the group expressed a keen taste for beauty, preferring the refined quality of classical painting, and adhering to the aesthetic theorizations of Symbolism.

In 1895 Bakst and Benois settled for some time in Paris; Djagilev also went to Paris and, back in Russia, founded the magazine “Mir Iskusstva”, which in its short existence (1898-1904) was the mouthpiece of the most advanced artistic ideas. Diaghilev and his friends understood that Russian art could not suffice on its own and that contacts with foreign countries were indispensable for its renewal. From this idea will be born the Russian Ballets, consecrated by Paris in 1909. The theories of Mir Iskusstva had great influence on the artists of the early twentieth century, finding an exhibition space in the group’s annual exhibitions. The movement’s polemical action was also supported by Moscow collectors, who imported avant-garde works, by Stanislavsky’s and Mamontov’s theatrical research, and by artists in search of a new expression.