Russian painter, mainly in watercolour, art historian and stage designer. Born in St Petersburg of French and Italian descent, son of Nikolai Benois, architect to the Imperial Palaces in Peterhof. Briefly attended a part-time course in stage design at the Academy of Arts 1887, but otherwise self-taught as an artist. Studied law at the University of St Petersburg 1890-4, and while still a student formed a circle with a number of friends, including Diaghilev, Somov and Bakst, for the purpose of studying art. This later developed into the World of Art (Mir Iskusstva), which held exhibitions and published a journal of the same name, 1898-1904. Travelled widely in Europe and was influenced by the art of the eighteenth century. Became very active and influential as a stage designer, including sets and costumes for Le Pavillon d'Armide 1907 and (for Diaghilev) Petrushka 1911 and Le Rossignol 1914. Edited the periodical Khudozhestvennye sokrovishcha Rossii (Art Treasures of Russia) 1901-3, and wrote several books on art and volumes of memoirs. Curator of Painting at the Hermitage 1918-25, then moved in 1926 to Paris, where he continued to paint and design for the theatre. Died in Paris.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.48