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Some works and biographical notes concerning this influential and talented graphic illustrator, painter and stage designer.

Born in Tarkhovka near St Petersburg, Bilibin was the son of a physician who trained as an artist and a lawyer, but whose inner conviction lead him to become an illustrator of books, mainly based on stylised Russian folk and medieval art.

Whilst studying at the studio of Princess Maria Tenesheva under Ilya Repin he was commissioned by the government Department for the Production of State Documents to illustrate a series of Russian folk stories. This series, eventually published in six slim paperback volumes brought him to the attention of the newly formed World of Art (Mir Istkusstva) group headed by Serge Diaghilev and Alexander Benois. Commissions for their journal followed and established Bilibin within that circle which was to become the basis of his career as an illustrator.

From 1904 onwards, he got involved with set and costume design for the theatre. His work for the Grand-Opera in Paris on Diaghilev's production of Mussorgski's "Boris Godunov" brought him world acclaim, though it is with his satirical work on the Zimin Theatre's staging of Rimsky-Korsakov's "The Golden Cockerel" in 1908 that he attained true greatness in this field.

During this period, Bilibin studied and painted landscapes, possibly as an antidote to the constraints of theatrical design. Studies of Russian winter landscapes and Crimean scenes show that here too he had mastery of the medium.

ABOVE: Illustration from "Fenist the Falcon" (1900)
ABOVE RIGHT: Endpiece from "Sister Alyonushka and Brother Ivanushka" (1902)

These pages designed and produced by Matt McArdle © 1998
Scans of the works shown here are courtesy of Goznak (Moscow) and Aurora Art Publishers (St Petersburg)