Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Russian Master Of Art Nouveau

Born in 1876 in a small village outside St. Petersburg, Ivan Bilibin was one of 20th century Russia's most influencial illustrators. As a young man, he studied under the famous Ilya Repin, a leading Russian painter and sculptor.

Heavily influenced by traditional Japanese prints, his own work became widely known in 1899, when he published illustrations for Russian fairy tales. From 1902-1904 he travelled widely in the Russian North, engrossed with Russian folklore and traditional wooden architecture. He was also widely know as an accomplished and innovative set designer for the Ballet Russe.

He left his homeland at the outset of the Revolution, and stayed briefly in Egypt before settling more permanently in Paris in 1925, where he decorated Orthodox churches and private homes. The pull of his homeland was strong and although it had become Soviet Russia, he returned there in 1936, where he lectured at the Soviet Academy of Arts until 1941. Ivan Bilibin was killed during the horrible Siege of Leningrad, during World War II.

His works are recognized today as enduring examples of Russian Art Nouveau illustration. The above portrait of Ivan Bilibin was created in 1901 by Boris Mikhailovich Kustodiev.

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