Théodore Strawinsky was born on 24th March, 1907 in Saint Petersburg, the first child of the composer Igor Stravinsky and his wife Catherine, née Nossenko. His brother and sisters, Ludmila, Soulima and Milène were all born between 1908 and 1914.
In 1910 the Stravinsky family established winter quarters in Montreux-Clarens, situated in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and spent their summers at their Ustilug estate in Ukraine.
At the outbreak of WW1 the Stravinsky family decided to remain in Switzerland. They stayed at the conductor Ernest Ansermet’s home, and in 1915 moved to the Villa Rogivue in Morges, and later on to Maison Bornand.
In the spring, the Stravinsky family left Switzerland for good and moved to Garches where Coco Chanel had placed at their disposal her mansion, Bel Respiro.
Théodore was stunned by Picasso’s stage curtain painting for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes performance of Satie’s ballet Parade, which he watched from behind the scenes.
The Stravinsky family settled in Villa des Roses in Nice. They paid regular visits to Jean Cocteau who was then staying in Villefranche-sur-mer.
At the age of twenty, Théodore Strawinsky had his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Aux Quatre Chemins in Paris. At his second exhibition at the same gallery, the visitors’ book showed the signatures and sketches of many prestigious visitors, including Rouault, Lifar, Sauguet, Goossens, Souvtchinsky, Ansermet, Diaghilev, and Lourié.
After an idyllic summer holiday near Lake Paladru in Isère, where he visited Prokoviev who was staying in the region, Igor Stravinsky decided once again to move.
The family took up residence at château de la Veronnière in Voreppe, situated in the outskirts of Grenoble.
Théodore took his first steps in the theatre world when he painted the sets for André Obey’s Loire, presented at the Théâtre du Vieux Colombier in Paris. This resulted in more than a dozen orders for costumes and sets in France, Belgium and Switzerland.
By the end of the year the Stravinsky family had acquired French citizenship (except for Théodore) and moved to Paris, first to 21 rue Viète, and then to 25 rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré where the painter set up his atelier. Like his father, he always had his own creative space close to the family habitat.
Théodore Strawinsky and Denise Guerzoni were married on 29th June, in Paris. The bride was the daughter of the Swiss painter Stéphanie Guerzoni, a former student of Ferdinand Hodler. She is also the step-daughter of the Czech writer and diplomat Josef Palivec, her mother's second husband.
In November, Théodore’s younger sister Ludmila died of tuberculosis. She was the mother of a one-year old baby called Catherine, after her maternal grandmother.
Théodore lost his mother, Catherine, in March and his paternal grandmother, Anna, in June.
The Perls Galleries in New York presented an exhibition of Théodore Strawinsky.
Arrested under the Vichy regime in 1941, Théodore was liberated after a few months’ internment at Recebedou. No sooner free, he started painting again.
Théodore and Denise moved to Switzerland, Denise’s home country, and took up residence in Geneva, at Maison Bonnet, 40 rue du Marché.
Youri Mandelstramm, Ludmila’s widower and father of Catherine aged six at the time, died in a camp in Jaworzno, Poland.
From 1944 to 1966, the painter applied his brush to a number of stage sets and created the costumes for L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier's Tale) (1944), Sodome et Gomorrhe (1944), Petrouchka (Petrushka) (1945), The Rake’s Progress (1952) and L’Oiseau de feu (The Firebird) (1962).
Denise and Théodore took in their niece, Catherine, who thus found a home after a long stay in a sanatorium in Leysin. The couple’s official adoption of the child took place in 1952. Four years later, Théodore acquired Swiss citizenship for himself and their daughter.
Théodore was commissioned to execute a stained glass window showing five Gospel Scenes in a church in Siviriez, near Fribourg. Over a period of almost thirty years, the artist carried out some forty works including wall paintings, stained glass windows, glass panels, mosaics, tapestries and marble engravings. He worked with well-known architects such as Denis Honegger, Hans van der Laan, Nico van der Laan and Jan de Jong, and joined the circle of famous artists that decorated holy places, including Léger, Lurçat, Rouault, Matisse, Braque, and Chagall.
From 1963 to 1978, the Netherlands became almost a second home. Théodore worked with Dom Hans van der Laan, the creator of the architectural current called the Bossche School, on the decoration of six churches in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Igor Stravinsky died on 6th April, in New York. He was recognised as one of the most influential composers of modern music of the twentieth century.
After his first book about his father, published in 1948, Théodore wrote a tribute to his parents entitled Catherine and Igor Stravinsky: a Family Album.
Théodore Strawinsky was awarded the Art, Science and Literature silver medal by the Académie française for his entire creative work.
The artist was awarded the insignia of Commander of the Papal Order of St Gregory the Great, by Pope Paul VI, for 'services rendered to the Church through his art’.
Suffering from sight loss, the artist executed a last pastel L’ananas, and then put down his brushes.
Théodore Strawinsky died on 16th May, in Geneva, at the age of 82. He was buried in the Russian cemetery in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois, near Paris, beside his mother, his sister, his paternal grandmother, and his wife Denise who joined him in 2004.
Strawinsky ? Stravinsky ? Stravinski ?
In Europe, Igor used to sign his name ‘Strawinsky’, the phonetic transcription from the Russian, which observes the ‘v’ sound in his name and allows German speakers to avoid an ‘f’ sound.
When the composer moved to the United States, he changed the spelling to ‘Stravinsky’ so that the ‘w’ would be pronounced ‘v’.
UNESCO standardised the spelling of Slav names, bringing together the Polish ‘i’ and the Russian ‘ij’ in the single transcription, ‘i’.
As for Théodore, he stayed with the original transcription and remained faithful to ‘Strawinsky’.
1907 Théodore with his parents, Russia
1917 Stravinsky et Ramuz families, Morges
1920 Family passport's photograph, Morges
1932 The Stravinsky family, Voreppe
1936 Théodore and Denise's wedding day, Paris
1948 Théodore and Denise with their daughter, Geneva
1952 Igor, Denise and Théodore, Geneva