Cubism was a form of Modern art which inspired numerous forms and mediums; through music and literature, to architecture and dance. Primarily concerned with how objects and subjects are perceived, analysed and abstracted, it drew on multiple perspectives and viewpoints conceived over space and time, to produce lively geometric artworks. Although principally an aesthetic and individual art form, Picasso increasingly sought to collaborate with others in the early twentieth-century, to apply modern Cubist philosophy and art to ballet set design. Costume Design for the Ballet Le Tricorne (The Three-Cornered Hat), is one such costume design produced by Picasso for a production of the ballet in 1919.
Le Tricorne was choreographed by Léonide Massine with music by Manuel de Falla; it struck home to Picasso due to its Spanish origins, the use of Spanish dance and its Spanish setting. Picasso was at the time an expat in Europe drawn to his Spanish roots. As well as producing the costumes, Picasso painted the stage curtain for Le Tricorne. It premiered in London to mixed critical reception; while some praised Picasso for his progressive sets, others—particularly in more intellectual journals—felt it was unbecoming. As a clash between Modernism and traditional ballet, Le Tricorne's mixed reception represented the divides in the art world.
Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballets Russes employed Picasso as a designer for a number of his itinerant theatre companies' productions. Now considered a masterclass in applying art across disciplines, at the time Picasso was lambasted by the Parisian art world for leaving the experimental and avant-garde role of painting for elitist (and bourgeois) Russian ballet. Picasso came to design the costumes and set production for Le Tricorne upon moving to Rome in 1918 following the First World War. There, Picasso fell in love with a Russian ballet dancer, Olga Khokhlova, whom he later married. Picasso became friends with the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky at this time, sparking a lasting relationship with ballet, music and dance.