the marionettes of Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster

Much appreciation has been forthcoming from Artloggers for the constructivist marionettes of the Russian artist and stage designer Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster (1884 -1849) recently featured in three puppet-themed posts. Having since found further examples of Exter’s marionettes, I’ve decided to gather all the images I have of her puppets into a single post.

There’s an Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster Wikipedia entry for anyone inclined to read more about her, but here’s a brief summary of the facts. After studying art at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris, Exter returned to Russia where she became a leading stage-designer and produced the set and costume designs for what is often called the first Soviet science-fiction film, Aelita, (1924) aka Aelita: Queen of Mars. That same year she and her husband Nicolas Evgenievich Ekster emigrated to France, where Alexandra lived for the rest of her life. She moved and worked in a circle of artistic elite, and was friends with Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, Guillaume Apollinaire and Gertrude Stein.

I haven’t been able to find evidence of Ekster giving performances with her marionettes, which might suggest they were more by way of the artist being playful with three-dimensional form in the process of designing for the theatre. (Though if that’s the case they were enormously elaborate constructs.) She also made maquettes of costumes/characters for the stage, as well as producing costume designs by the more usual method of drawings/watercolours on paper.


Below is an example of an Exter maquette of characters/costumes for Romeo and Juliet,  followed by three costume designs for a production of Salome.

Maquettes of figures from Romeo and Juliet, circa 1924

Costume designs for Salome. 1922

Images of Ekter’s work as a  painter and stage designer may be found at THIS Pinterest page.


And here, to wind up this post neatly, is a photograph just sent to me by my friend Leonard Greco. He took it yesterday at LACMA, and it’s of a wonderful Ekster marionette. Thank you, Leonard.

Alexandra Exter

Russia, 1884 – 1949

Evening Dress (Habit de Rigeur) 1926

Wood, cardboard, plastic and material

8 thoughts on “the marionettes of Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster

  1. Pingback: Puppet Catch-up: Clive’s Posts | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. Wonderful! I love the way that the figures in skirts flip their legs out sideways from the material…very carefree! I particularly like the costume design drawing for Herod…to me that stands as a piece in its own right.

  3. So funny my sister and I were at LACMA yesterday admiring an Ekster marionette ; will try to send you an image that I snapped of the spry fellow. Look for an email

    • Lucky you, having an Ekster marionette to examine at close quarters. (Well, as close as being under glass allows.) I am really quite jealous!

      Yes, please do send the photograph.


      • Well I have a sleeper sofa with your (and Peter…and Jack’s ) name on it. Come on out to LA-any ol’ time. LA has a very large collection of German Expressionist work ; much was collected during Hollywood’s golden era. So much to draw upon. The “Golem” exhibition is closing shortly, it has been a real treat.
        Anyway, thanks for posting more info concerning the amazing Ekter-I snapped the LACMA image as reference for my own puppet making-she makes it seem approachable.

  4. More details gratefully received here. Have been fascinated ever since you first mentioned her. Now I see she was a mover and shaker with some pretty special contemporaries. What gems. Thanks Clive.

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