Richard Buckle born 6 August 1912 (d. 2001)
Christopher Richard Sandforth Buckle, better known as Richard Buckle, was a lifelong devotee of ballet, and a well-known ballet critic.
Buckle came from an army family. His father, a major, was killed in 1918 when Buckle was just two. His childhood was dominated by women, including his mother who lived until well into her 90s. He was educated at Marlborough, where he discovered that he was an aesthete, and went up to Oxford to read modern languages, but failed to obtain a scholarship and left after the first year.
Subsequently, he was sent to Heatherley's Art School, although by then he had already alighted upon his metier. In 1933, on Liverpool Street station, he saw a copy of Romola Nijinsky's biography of her husband. That changed his life. Seventeen years on, Buckle was to be one of the pall-bearers at the great dancer's funeral.
He founded the magazine Ballet in 1939, and revived it after the war (during which he served with the Scots Guards, being mentioned in despatches in 1944 during the Italy campaign). Between 1948 and 1955 he was ballet critic for The Observer.
He organised a number of highly successful exhibitions, including most notably one in 1954 on the life and work of Diaghilev, first at the Edinburgh Festival and then at Forbes House in London. He also organised the quatercentenary Shakespeare exhibition at Stratford-upon-Avon in 1964-5. His long series of exhibitions during the decade 1954 to 1964 were hugely innovative. They orchestrated an army of talents, from Cecil Beaton to David Hockney, from Leonard Rosoman to Nicholas Georgiadis. Their eventual impact on the staid world of art exhibitions and indeed on permanent museum display was considerable, even if never really acknowledged. Buckle was the first person to raise exhibition making of this kind to the level of an art form in its own right.
In 1967 he began to work to create a museum of the performing arts, and he was instrumental in the purchase from the sale of the remaining Diaghilev scenery the Picasso backcloth to the ballet Le Train Bleu. In 1973 the project merged with the old British Theatre Museum under the aegis of the Victoria & Albert museum and became the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden.
Richard Buckle's contribution to dance criticism was significant during a period when modern ballet style was emerging. He praised the Russian style which used the whole body and contrasted it unfavourably with the British style. He could be brutal and his criticism of the July 1951 production of the ballet Tiresias by the choreographer Frederick Ashton and composer Constant Lambert was particularly resented. However, his writing became uneven as drink got the better of him.
His health deteriorated and he had mental breakdowns in 1971 and 1976, and he had a heart attack in 1979. In 1976 he left London and settled in Wiltshire where he continued to write, and he produced two more autobiographies.
His publications include the most comprehensive biographies of Nijinsky (1971) and Diaghilev (1979), and he edited several books, including the autobiography of Lydia Sokolova and the selected diaries of Cecil Beaton.
He was appointed a CBE in 1979.
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