By Kenneth G. Munson
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His departure was probably inevitable, because he was already extensively involved in entrepreneurial activities. He began to talk, like Peter the Great, about opening a window on Europe. Having traveled through much of Europe in the early 1890s and having inherited his mother’s money in 1893, when he reached the age of twenty-one, Diaghilev began his activities on a modest scale, initially as an art impresario, organizing exhibitions first of British and German watercolors for St. Petersburg, next of Scandinavian art, and then of Russian paintings, which he displayed in Russia and was later to bring to the rest of Europe.
Municipal and state officials questioned the wisdom and purpose of the theater. Anti-Semites maligned him as a moneygrubbing Jew interested in eroding established values. ” 8 Yet the theater was built and it had luminous financial backing — Vanderbilt, Morgan, Stillman, Rothschild, Cassel — as well as support, both moral and financial, from Otto H. Kahn, president of the New York Opera. The theater opened on March 30, 19 13 . Lights projected onto the façade emphasized the building’s whiteness, its simplicity, and high lighted the reliefs of Bourdelle’s frieze, Apollo and the Muses.
That the issue of sexual morality should become a vehicle of rebellion against bourgeois values for the modern movement was inevitable. In the art of Gustav Klimt, in the early operas of Richard Strauss, in the plays of Frank Wedekind, in the personal antics of Verlaine, Tchaikovsky, and Wilde, and even in the relaxed morality of the German youth movement, a motif of eroticism dominated the search for newness and change. ” 2 The sexual rebel, particularly the homosexual, became a central figure in the imagery of revolt, especially after the ignominious treat ment Oscar Wilde received at the hands of the establishment.
Aircraft of World War I by Kenneth G. Munson