Iconic Designs


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Le Tricorne, Scene design, 1919. Watercolor. Howard D. Rothschild Collection. Framed storage. MS Thr 414.4 (114). Bequest, 1989.

Scene design by Pablo Picasso for Le Tricorne

If there was an artist whose contributions to Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes paralleled the musical contributions of Igor Stravinsky, it might have been the artist Pablo Picasso. Although Stravinsky was Russian and Picasso was Spanish, there were striking parallels: they were almost exact contemporaries, and both were strug­gling young artists, unproven on the stage, when offered a significant opportunity by Diaghilev. Both contributed repeatedly to the Ballets Russes over a period of years, and those contributions have become iconic not only of the Ballets Russes, but of the progressive art of their time, and have only become more celebrated and better appre­ciated over the past century.

Picasso’s first project for Diaghilev, in 1917, was Parade, an adventurous collaboration with Jean Cocteau, composer Erik Satie, and choreographer Léonide Massine. Picasso was able to draw upon his own Spanish heritage in Le Tricorne, with a lively score by Manuel de Falla and choreography again by Massine, who had developed an affinity for Spanish styles of dance. The ballet was first produced in London in 1919, and thereafter it remained in the Ballets Russes repertory as a favorite work.