Russian illustrator-storyteller, master of The Golden Cockerel and Princess Frog
Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (born August 4, 1876 – died February 7, 1942) is a great Russian artist of the late XIX – first half of the XX century, book illustrator and theater decorator, an excellent master of graphic images and monumental painting. Ivan Bilibin ‘s work is vast and multifaceted. Filled with bright colors and immaculately clear lines, it plunges the viewer into the magical world of Russian fairy tales and epics, Russian antiquity and folklore with amazing originality and age-old beauty. The artist’s biography reflects many glorious, interesting episodes. His paintings still delight his contemporaries with thoughtfulness of details and brilliance.
Ivan Bilibin was not an innovator of the illustrative genre of Russian painting. But he continuously developed his skills, diligently studied archeology, history and ethnography, went on expeditions and used the found techniques of ancient Russian decorative and applied art in his work. Turning to fairy tales and epics, he managed to feel the rhythm and emphasize their “Russianness”, created his own “Bilibino style”, transforming reality and knowledge into images of art.
Biography of Ivan Bilibin
Ivan Bilibin was born on August 4, 1876 in the village of Tarkhovka, St. Petersburg province. From a respected noble family, he had good educational opportunities and studied diligently. In 1896 he graduated from high school with a silver medal, and four years later – the law faculty of St. Petersburg University, where he entered at the insistence of his father.
Since childhood, the future artist gravitated towards drawing. He successfully combined his studies at the gymnasium and university with a rich program of mastering the fine arts. Later he would say: “As far as I can remember, I have always painted.” Since 1895, Ivan Bilibin attended the Imperial School of the Society for the Encouragement of Artists. Likes to depict nature, masters various painting techniques.
During his university holidays, he travels to Munich to attend the school of renowned artist-educator Anton Azbe. It is within the walls of this institution that the basis of Bilibin’s graphic credo is laid – a sharpened tense line, laconically denoting a volumetric shape. In a painterly manner, “color crystallization” takes place. Watercolors are not mixed on a palette, but are applied to the canvas next to each other, creating a rich and clean color spectrum.
Upon his return to Russia, until 1904, the young painter studied with Ilya Repin.
Under the guidance of an experienced mentor, his artistic views evolve rapidly. Mastering the skill, Ivan Bilibin approaches the understanding of the urgent tasks of art, is inspired by the work of Viktor Vasnetsov and defines his own path – an illustrative genre, to which he remains faithful until the end of his life.
Having come close to the “World of Art”, an association of progressive Petersburg artists, Ivan Bilibin embraces new trends emerging in art, correlates what he has seen with his interests, and forms tasks. Continuous professional growth and craving for knowledge lead the young master to success and popularity.
After the October Revolution in February 1920, Ivan Yakovlevich left the country and ended up in Egypt. The East literally overwhelms him with views, colors and traditions. The artist opens a workshop in Cairo. Not finding his favorite work with illustrations, he paints portraits, makes decorative panels in the Byzantine style. He is fond of Egyptology, studies ancient Muslim and Coptic arts, travels a lot to the countries of the Middle East.
In 1925, Ivan Yakovlevich moved to Paris, where he resumed his work as an illustrator and theater decorator. After the global financial crisis, which became a tragedy for migrants, the once sought-after artist remains without orders and returns to his homeland.
The last years of life, Ivan Bilibin lives in Leningrad, teaches graphics at the Academy of Arts, draws up books and scenery to performances. At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, he refuses evacuation, because “from the deposited fortresses they are not running, they are protected.” And on February 7, 1942, dies from the exhaustion of the body caused by hunger.
The most famous paintings of Ivan Bilibina
Most of the wizard heritage is collected and presented at the Museum of Ivangorod Leningrad Region. Some of the most famous paintings of Ivan Bilibina:
- “Landscape” (1901) is one of the early works, decorativeness and fabulility, characteristic of the Master illustrations, is reflected in the real topic of the Russian village.
- “The fairy tale about Ivan-Tsarevich, a fire-bird and a gray wolf” (1899) – Vityaz on the crossroads and a clearly prescribed inscription on the stone reflect the philosophical component of folk art.
- “Wolga” (1902) – to write the epic hertiary with his buddy, the master carefully studied the ancient motives and the treasury of the Moscow Kremlin.
- “Golden Cockerel” (1909) – sketch of the scenery to the Opera-Korsakov Opera, supplied by Sergey Zimin in the Opera Theater, provides for the output of artists from different sides of the scene.
- “Fairy tales of the Russian grandmother” (1929) – one of the eight illustrations of the series, also known as the “Fairy Tales” made by a master in Paris.
- “Scary Court” (1936) – sketch of frescoes for the temple of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary at Olshans in Prague.
- Duke Stepanovich (1941) is the last unfinished composition of the artist.
Pictures of Ivan Bilibin, combining concise forms with a philosophical concept, have absorbed the experience of the old centuries. His original creativity reflected the rationality and beauty of his native land, left a bright trail in Russian and world art.