Barbara Karinska (1888–1983) was one of most influential costume designers of the 20th century, particularly famed for her creative partnership with George Balanchine. Her 1967 designs for Balanchine's three-act abstract ballet Jewels are used in The Royal Ballet's 2007 production.
Karinska was born Varvara Ivanovna Zhmoudska in Kharkov, Russia. She originally trained in embroidery and emigrated to Paris in 1923. She first constructed ballet costumes in 1932 for the debut season of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, which included three works by Balanchine. She quickly won renown for her exquisite craftsmanship, taste and imagination, interpreting dance designs by figures such as Matisse, Picasso, Chagall and Beaton. She moved to New York in 1939 and went on to construct and design costumes for opera, dance, on Broadway and in Hollywood, and in 1948 shared an Academy Award with Dorothy Jeakins for Best Costume Design (Colour) for Victor Fleming's Joan of Arc. She worked with Balanchine's company Ballet Society (later New York City Ballet) from its inception in 1946 to the end of her career, and in 1964 devoted her shop exclusively to NYCB. In all over 28 years she created costumes for 48 works for the company.
Karinska's innovations in costume design included a stronger and more flexible tutu. Her dance designs are remarkable for clarity with which they display a dancer's line – a quality particularly vital for Balanchine's distinctive choreographic language.
Barbara Karinska, 1939
Thiago Soares and Marianela Nunez in Jewels © ROH/Tristam Kenton, 2012
Dawid Trzensimiech, Marcelino Sambé, Melissa Hamilton, Tristan Dyer and Valentino Zucchetti and Artists of The Royal Ballet in Rubies (Jewels), The Royal Ballet © ROH/Bill Cooper, 2013
The Royal Ballet performing Jewels © Tristram Kenton/ROH 2011
Helen Crawford, Emma Maguire and Dawid Trzensimiech in Jewels, The Royal Ballet © ROh/Tristram Kenton, 2011
Alina Cojocaru and Rupert Pennefather in Diamonds as part of Jewels © Johan Persson/ROH 2007
The Royal Ballet, Diamonds as part of Jewels © Johan Persson/ROH 2007
Zenaida Yanowsky in Rubies as part of Jewels © Johan Persson/ROH 2007
Yohei Sasaki, Johannes Stepanek, Bennet Gartside in Jewels © Johan Persson/ROH 2007
Leanne Benjamin in Emeralds as part of Jewels © Johan Persson/ROH 2007