1872 - 1929

“Of all the wonders that the world had to offer, only art promised immortality.”

– Sergei Diaghilev

Diaghilev graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory of Music in 1894, determined to become a patron of the arts. He began by producing operas and organizing exhibitions of Russian artists and French Impressionists. The first season of the Ballet Russes introduced such immortal talents as Anna Pavlova, Vaslav Nijinsky, Tamara Karsavina and Michel Fokine; it also heralded the birth of what has been called the most important artistic enterprise of that era in the Western world. Diaghilev possessed an instinct for identifying unique talent, if not genius, in dancers, choreographers, composers and designers. So infallible was his artistic taste that even the most independent of artists – including Igor Stravinsky and Richard Strauss – were persuaded to alter their compositions to suit him. Others with whom he collaborated were George Balanchine, Maurice Ravel, Erik Satie, Sergei Prokofiev, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Rouault, Jean Cocteau, Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Vladimir Dukelsky and Nicolas Nabokov. Under Diaghilev’s guidance the Ballet Russes produced an unmatched repertoire of masterworks including Carnaval, Schéhérazade, Petrouchka, Le Spectre de la Rose, Firebird, Le Sacre du Printemps, Le Coq d’Or, Parade, Les Femmes de Bonne Humeur, and L’Après-midi d’un Faune. His promulgation of the exotic, the sensual and the androgynous revolutionized ballet in the 20th-century, and the impact of his 20-year reign over Western art is immeasurable. He died from complications due to diabetes on August 19, 1929. His legacy survives through the work of the dancers, artists, composers and choreographers in Europe and the US whom he inspired.


Gender Male

Sexual Orientation Gay

Gender Identity Cisgender

Ethnicity Caucasian/White

Faith Construct Russian Orthodox

Nations Affiliated Russia Italy

Era/Epoch Interwar Period (1918-1939) Progressive Era (1890-1920) Russia Empire (1721-1917) Soviet Russia (1917-1922)

Field(s) of Contribution







Commemorations & Honors

Diaghilev and Stravinsky Foundation Ekstrom Collection Held By Victoria and Albert Museum Department of Theatre and Performance

Ballet Russes Founder (1909-1929)

Google Doodle Commemorating Sergei Diaghilev's 145th Birthday (2017)


Original Biography Author
Victor Salvo
Biography Edited By
Owen Keehnen
Resources Coordination
Carrie Maxwell