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Salzmann Alexander

A native of Tbilisi, Alexander Salzmann was born in the cultivated family of the first wave of Germans who immigrated to Georgia at the beginning of the 19th century and received a thorough upbringing and early training in art, music and drama.  His father – one of the most important architects in Georgia,  Albert Salzmann  designed the building of the Temple of Glory (nowadays Georgian National Gallery). Fluent in four languages – Russian, German, English and French. He trained as a painter in Moscow, later moving to Munich where he enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts in 1898 to study under Franz Stuck.

Alexander Salzmann made a huge contribution into development of avant-garde scenography and creation of the avant-garde concept of the arts’ synthesis, in which a special role is assigned to rhythm and lighting. Salzman is credited for  introducing the new principle of a scattered, diffused lighting in set design which he first used in the early 1910s  at  the theater  festival  of the Institute of Music and Rhythm in Hellerau, Germany, founded by the Swiss composer Jacques-Dalcroze. He was the first to introduce the Light on the Light method as he conceptualised it, using the spotlight as a ray of sunlight in Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice (Hellerau, 1913). He had  created a new philosophy of theatre lighting that sought to connect light, color and sound and, eventually went beyond the boundaries of scenography.   In 1916-1917, Salzmann used the innovative lighting system in Moscow in Alexander Tairov’s high-profile performance “Phamira-Kiphared”, which was based on the play written by Innokenti Anensky and actually became a manifesto of the Tairov Theater.

In 1916-1917, Salzmann returned to his homeland and lived in Tbilisi with his wife Janna  Aleman until 1920.  In 1918, he started working as the artistic director of the Tbilisi Opera where he designed sets for  Pyotr Chaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, Jacques Ochenbach’s  Hoffman’s Tales, Edward Napravnik’s  Dubrovsky, Dimitri Arakishvili’s opera  The Legend of Shota Rustaveli, Zakaria Paliashvili’s Abesalom and Etheri. In 1918, he took part  in the exhibition of the Caucasian Society for the Promotion of Fine Arts, as well as in The Small Circle exhibitions (1918-1919), where he showcased the originals of the paintings printed in the Jugend magazine on the mythological themes:  Flora, Diana, Orpheus. He also worked in the Georgian Drama Theater, cooperating with avant-garde  circles of Tbilisi. Together with Ziga Valishevsky, he painted  a curtain for the Tbilisi Opera.

At the beginning of the 1920s, Sazmann, together with George Gurdjieff traveled from Georgia to Constantinople, and later moved and  settled in France. Linked with Gurdjieff and his Institute of Harmonious Development, he had created posters for his ballet, sketches of costumes, and organized performances of his Divine Movements in Paris and New York until in 1930 they had parted ways forever.  Four years later, Salzmann died of tuberculosis in Switzerland.

Alexander Salzmann
Date of birth1874Date of death1934Share