Before Russian art impresario Sergei Diaghilev founded the Ballets Russes in Paris in 1905 he helped create the influential journal Mir Iskusstva. Diaghilev along with a small circle of forward thinking artists started the magazine as a platform for the multitude of new ideas that would explode into the 20th century.
The original group; Alexandre Benois, Konstantin Somov, Dmitry Filosofov, Léon Bakst, Eugene Lansere were young ambitious artists that believed the new world that technology was rapidly creating needed it’s own art. They adopted the name Mir Iskusstva, (World of Art). Diaghilev authored the manifesto which appeared in the first issue. It rejected popular art’s attempts at realism and declaring themselves dedicated to an “art for art’s sake”.
Over the course of it’s 5 years of existence Mir Iskusstva was an incubator for many of the aesthetic concepts that would shape the art world for the next hundred years. The work eschewed naturalism for stylized prints that evoked folk art and the Japanese masters whose art had taken Europe by storm at the end of the 19th century. The journal embraced a wide range of styles from those early folk-like block prints through new experimental paintings that sowed the seeds for the kaleidoscope of abstractions to come.
After it’s demise as a printed journal the group continued it’s mission by staging international exhibitions featuring artists like Kandinsky, Picasso and Marc Chagall, that became giants of the Modern Art era. It’s legacy also lived on in the Ballets Russes, which featured sets and costume designs by many of it’s contributors.