Marc Chagall. Aleko and Zemphira by Moonlight. Study for backdrop for Scene I of the ballet Aleko. 1942. Gouache and pencil on paper, 15 1/8 × 22 1/2″ (38.4 × 57.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art. Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest. © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Visual artists have long been interested in the stage as an arena for experimentation, and their interdisciplinary collaborations have immeasurably enriched the history of modern art. Stage Pictures presents a selection of designs for dance, theater, and opera from MoMA’s drawings collection. The exhibition highlights set and costume studies, as well as more abstract suggestions of light and mood, spanning a century of visual experimentation on the stage—from the total theaters of the Ballets Russes and the Bauhaus, to Lincoln Kirstein’s formation of an American ballet company, to Pop performances and contemporary epic opera. These works demonstrate how artists have used drawing strategies to, as one critic put it, “anticipate an event”: interpreting texts to create dramatic mises-en-scène, imagining bodies in space and motion, and manipulating illumination and shadow. Featured artists include Fernand Léger, Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Marc Chagall, Diego Rivera, and Jim Dine.

Organized by Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings.

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