Ivan Bilibin

Russia / 1876 - 1942 / wikipedia
Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (Russian: Ива́н Я́ковлевич Били́бин) was a 20th-century illustrator and stage designer who was inspired throughout his career by Slavic folklore. Born in Tarkhovka, a suburb of St. Petersburg, he studied in Munich in 1898, then under Ilya Repin in St. Petersburg.

Bilibin soon developed his own style based on carefully traced and detailed outlined drawing, tinted in water color. This style was named after him, and inspired many to follow and imitate him. Bilibin gained renown in 1899, when he released his illustrations of Russian fairy tales. In 1902–1904 he travelled in the Russian North, where he studied old wooden architecture and Russian folklore. He published his findings on the subject in the monograph "Folk Arts of the Russian North" in 1904. Another influence on his style was the traditional woodblock prints of Japan.

The artist expanded from fairy tale illustrations to journal and industrial graphic art (post cards, posters, calendars and so forth), as well as political caricature. During the Russian Revolution of 1905, he drew revolutionary cartoons. He was the designer for the 1909 première production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel. The October Revolution, however, proved alien to him.

After brief stints in Cairo and Alexandria, he settled in Paris in 1925. There he took to decorating private mansions and Orthodox churches. He still longed for his homeland and, after decorating the Soviet Embassy in 1936, he returned to Soviet Russia. He delivered lectures in the Soviet Academy of Arts until 1941. Bilibin died of starvation during the Siege of Leningrad and was buried in a collective grave.
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