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Dmitri Bouchéne
(April 26, 1893 - March 6, 1993) Russia - France

Dmitri Bouchéne

Artist, painter, stage and costume designer


Dmitrij Dmitrievič Bušen (or Dimitry Bushen) was born in St Tropez, France, a descendant of a French Huguenot family. His great-grandfather, Nikolai Bushen, moved in 1685 from France to Catherine the Great's Russia. Dmitri's mother died when he was two. He was a pupil at the Second Imperial (Alexander I) gymnasium and attended evening classes at the art school attached to the Society for Encouragement and Promotion of Arts.

Sergey Rostislavovich ErnstHe met his life-long lover and partner Sergey Rostislavovich Ernst (1894 - 1980) when they were both art students in St. Petersburg. (portrait at the left)

In 1912 Dimitri got a letter of introduction to a man in Paris, Maurice Denis, a co-founder and principal theorist of the Nabis movement. There Dimitri met Henri Matisse, who taught him to paint not what he saw but what he felt about his subject.

On Dimitri's return to St Petersburg he joined the staff at the Hermitage as Keeper of Fans. He then ran the department of Russian porcelain, silver and jewels. It was at the invitation of Alexander Benois, who had been appointed by Diaghilev to deal with the Mir Iskusstva exhibitions, that Dimitri took part in those at Anichkov Palace in 1918, 1922 and 1924.

In 1925 Bouchéne obtained permission for a three-month holiday in Paris, travelling together via Tallinn, Estonia with his lover, the art historian Sergei Ernst. They never returned to the Soviet Union.

ClaireIn 1926 Dimitri made costumes for Anna Pavlova in Paris. At the same time he began working for leading haute couture houses in the city - Jean Patou, Nina Ricci, Lanvin and Lelong - and for Jensen, a firm which specialised in interior decoration. In 1930 he designed sets for theatre productions by Jean Giraudoux and in 1934 costumes for Ida Rubinstein in the ballets Diane de Poitiers and Waltz. Mikhail Fokin invited Dimitri in 1937 to design both sets and costumes for his Monte Carlo company London production, Elements. On the brink of the Second World War Dimitri also worked for the German choreographer Kurt Jooss, who emigrated from the Hitler regime to London, where he ran a ballet school.

During the Nazi occupation of France, Dimitri and Sergei took part in the French Resistance.

In the post-war years Dimitri worked for Roland Petit and in 1948 he designed sets and costumes for Serge Lifar's 1948 production Divertissement, at the Paris Opera, the beginning of a regular collaboration which continued until Lifar's Firebird for the Gulbenkian Ballet in Lisbon in 1969.


In the 1950s Dimitri worked for La Scala and Rome Opera; in Amsterdam he created sets and costumes for Swan Lake, Eugene Onegin and Faust; and in the 1960s he worked for Berlin Opera, where he designed decor and costumes for Romeo and Juliet. Dimitri's last work was the 1977 Paris production of Poem Without a Hero, after Anna Akhmatova's poem. He was 80 when he resigned.

Vue d'atélier

graveDimitri was also a painter. He is well represented in the Taylor collection, now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. In 1990 he made a gift of some 20 paintings and drawings to the Hermitage, which then mounted his first exhibition, 65 years late. Dimitri was too old and ill to attend. The Russki Muzei in St Petersburg also received a few paintings and drawings for its Mir Iskusstva collection.

Dimitri died in Paris, seven weeks before his 100th birthday. The lovers lived together all their lives and are buried in one grave in Montparnasse, Paris Division 13; Row 2, south-west part; Grave 19.

The inscription reads "What a joy / You have arrived" -- referring to the thirteen years between Sergei's death in 1980 and Dimitri's in 1993.


The portraits of Dimitri and of Sergei are by Zinaida Serebryakova, both painted in 1921. The other paintings are works by Dimitri: "Claire" ballet, "Acrobate" and "Vue d'atélier"

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