Alexander Tairov


Alexander Tairov opened the Kamerny theater (Chamber Theater) in Moscow in 1914. Like Meyerhold, Tairov believed in emphasizing theater’s theatrical elements, but unlike his more famous colleague, Tairov did not wish to break down barriers between stage and audience. Instead, his productions were meant to be theatrical spectacles, appreciated by a well-prepared audience. Tairov was fortunate to have his wife. Alisa Koonen, as collaborator and lead actress in practically all his productions. Tairov’s two most famous pre-revolutionary productions were Innokenty Annensky’s Thamirys Kytharodos (1916) and Oscar Wilde’s Salomé, both designed by Alexandra Exter. In 1921, Tairov stages one more production with designs by Exter, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. His most notable production of the early 20s, however, were Racine’s Phèdre and Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, the latter in a constructivist set by Alexander Vesnin. In the mid-20s, Tairov concentrated primarily on western repertoire, including notable productions of Eugene O’Neil.

This expressionist-inspired portrait of Alexander Tairov was done in 1919-20 by Aristarkh Lentulov, a minor avant-garde artist who worked in a variety of styles. It was painted just before Tairov began work on a series of constructivist productions, and a few years after his collaboration with Alexandra Exter on Thamyris Kytharodos.