A DESIGN FOR AN OPEN AIR THEATRE AT IVY HOUSE, GOLDERS GREEN,
HOME OF ANNA PAVLOVA
Signed l.r. A Beloborodoff.
Verso inscribed: ...[?] Beloborodoff / ...z[?]iante per il Balletto di Anna Pavlova, gallo... / N. 16
Watercolour on card, heightened with bodycolour and pen & sepia ink
19.0 x 23.5 cm
Beloborodov began his career as an architect and designer at the very end of Russia's "Silver Age". He studied at the Academy of Arts in St Petersburg. Early on in his studies he developed a particular affinity for Italian architecture, in particular the Italian expatriate Quarenghi, whose buildings could be seen all around the old capital. He gave a speech in 1912 where he spoke of protecting the architect's Zavadovskii Palace, he began work on a project to issue a book with architectural plans and sketches of the Palace. Although global circumstances prevented this from coming to fruition, it established Beloborodov's reputation among St Petersburg high society. He received commissions from clients such as the Count & Countess Bobrinski, the Obolenskiis and Prince Felix Iusopov. His career in Russia reached its zenith with a commission from Tsar Nicholas II to design the public halls at the Cabinet of His Royal Highness at Anichkov Palace in 1913-14. During this period he also came to know the leading figures of the arts in Russia, including Benois, Stravinsky, Nijinski and Anna Pavlova.
His time in Russia was cut short by the Great War and subsequent revolution, and he moved to London in 1920. Here he designed sets for the Royal Albert Hall, including for his former client and friend Prince Iusopov's 'Blue Ball', held in support of refugees from Soviet Russia. It was while he was in London that this design for Anna Pavlova's ballet was executed (1). Pavlova was living in Ivy House, in Golder's Green, where she kept a small ornamental pond for her pet swans she became associated with in the popular conception:
"I stayed on in England for several months (executing a project for an open-air theatre for the great ballerina in "Swan" park...)" (2)
The so-called 'Swan Park' at Ivy House was already well-known as the setting for many press photographs of Pavlova. Her performance of The Dying Swan, her posing as a Swan for The Sketch in a window of Selfridges and numerous other deliberate associations had solidified her image as this elegant creature in the mind of the public (3). Ivy House itself was built in the 18th century and is said to have been home to J.M.W. Turner at one point prior to Pavlova's purchase of it in 1913 (4).
Beloborov went on to have a glittering career in Italy after his short stay in England. This was a place where he could fully indulge histhe innate Italophilia he had already admitted to in 1911-1912: "The world of painting was always linked for me to my dream of Italy..." and he developed an "...'Italian backbone' which fuses all of my art" (5). In 1924 he held his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris and would continue to exhibit at other galleries across Europe. In Italy he became a close friend of the artist Giorgio de Chirico, and his architectural designs and interiors were critically aclaimed by collectors and the cognoscenti in that country. He is best remembered for his later fantastical views of Rome and other grand Italian cities: these are generally devoid of people and often sparkling in an otherworldly glow (de Chirico rightly perceptively saw it as a 'Platonic' light (6)) which have a surreal element to them and show off his fantastic architectural draughtsmanship. Later in life he also excelled in designing costumes and sets for opera and cinema in Italy.
(1) Encyclopedia of Russian Stage Design: 1880 -1930 - Ed.'s J.E. Bowlt, Nina D Lobanov-Rostovksy & Nikita D. Lobanov-Rostovsky - Antique Collectors' CLub (2013) - pp. 55-56
(2) From a draft for Beloborodov's autobiography, reproduced in:
A. Chichkine - Andrei Beloborodov and Italy - Archivio russoitaliano, v. IV, 2005, pp. 371 [(in Italian), translated by Andrew Bird]
(3) Jennifer Fisher - The Swan Brand: Reframing the Legacy of Anna Pavlova - Dance Research Journal, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Summer 2012) - pp. 51-67
(4) A large selection of material related to Pavlova and Beloborodov is contained in Rome, Vjaceslav Ivanov Study Center, in the Andrej Belobodorov Archives. A list of files can be found through http://www.russinitalia.it/archiviodettaglio.php?id=110#7 (last accessed 12/11/2019)
(5) Excerpts from 'Nabrosok k avtobiograffi', Ivanov Family Archive, Rome. Reproduced in A Chickine, ibid.
(6) Giorgio de Chirico - Andrea Beloborodoff alla Finestra - Gazetta della arti (24-30th March, 1947)