Christian Bérard (1902-1949)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more Christian Bérard, Edward James and Les Ballets 1933 In early 1933, ‘Les Ballets 1933’ was formed by George Balanchine and Boris Kochno, who had both previously been members of the Ballets Russes and the latter Sergei Diaghliev’s former secretary. Whilst a small group of contemporaries such as Coco Chanel and Cole Porter had helped to initially fund the company, in the spring of 1933 Kochno enlisted the financial support of Edward James. In 1929 Edward James had met and fallen in love with Austrian ballet dancer Ottilie (Tilly) Losch and in 1931 they were married. The relationship quickly faltered and by 1933 James, in an attempt to win back the affections of his wife, sponsored Les Ballets 1933 with the express desire that works were to be created to showcase her talents. It was James’ great patronage which allowed Les Ballets 1933 to run for a full season and which allowed Kochno and Balanchine to realise their vision. The neo-Romanticist Pavel Tchetlitchew was heavily involved in the design and conception of stage and costume production for Les Ballets, particularly the two works created specifically for Losch – L’Errante and The Seven Deadly Sins. Despite being a great rival of Tchetlitchew, Christian ‘Bébé’ Bérard, who James had first met in Paris in the early 1930s and who was Kochno’s lover and lifelong associate, also contributed extensively, designing stage sets and costumes for Mozartiana, as well as Les Songes and Fastes, with André Derain. Despite being slightly unsophisticated, Bérard was extremely popular in Parisian society. In the early 1930s Bérard worked with Jean-Michel Frank on designs and decorative schemes for furniture, and also worked as a fashion illustrator for Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli and Nina Ricci. He tragically died of a heart attack on the stage of the Théâtre Marigny in February 1949. Cecil Beaton paid tribute to him after his death: ‘Perhaps the one creative artist who represents both the triumph of individuality and at the same time, a tragic compromise with contemporary pressure, was Christian Bérard. In his serious work he limited his subject matter to the tragic world of the poor: melancholy urchins, acrobats and peasants were his favourite sitters, and he painted them with a palette of restrained colours. These canvases could have little influence on fashion, but it was Bérard’s other gifts which made him such a powerful catalyst in the arts and styles of his time’ (C. Beaton, The Glass of Fashion, London, 1954).
Christian Bérard (1902-1949)

Portrait of Hélène Lazareff

Christian Bérard (1902-1949)
Portrait of Hélène Lazareff
signed and dated 'Bérard '39' (lower left)
oil on canvas
11 ½ x 9 5/8 in. (29.2 x 24.3 cm.)
Probably purchased by Edward James in the mid-late 1940s.
B. Kochno with J. Clair and E. Charles-Roux, Christian Bérard, Paris, 1987, no. 79, p. 127 (illustrated) and p. 51 (photographed by Cecil Beaton in 1944 in the artist's atelier on the rue Casimir-Delavigne).
Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Lot Essay

Hélène Lazareff (1909-1988) was a Russian-born French journalist who founded Elle magazine in 1945. She was married to Pierre Lazareff (1907-1972), who was the founder of the French newspaper France-Soir. This portrait was likely painted just before she fled France for New York during the Second World War.

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