Ivan Bilibin- Alexa Alaimo and Madi York

Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1876 – 1942) was a Russian 20th-century illustrator. He was strongly inspired by Slavic folklore and worked a lot in theater with set design. He also delved into children’s literature.

Bilibin was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1876. His father wanted him to become a lawyer, so Bilibin earned his law degree, but he would soon abandon his father’s dream and become an illustrator. He entered art school in 1895 and illustrated the famous Russian folk tale, “Vasilisa the Fair”. He collaborated on productions of Boris Godunov, The Golden Cockerel, and Ruslan and Ludmila. Throughout his art career, he illustrated folk tales, and designed theatre sets and costumes. He liked to create images “that would form a cohesive whole” which didn’t distract readers from the story, but further engaged them. Bilibin would detail his work with ink and fill them with bright watercolors; his style was very similar to ancient, primitive art. Bilibin borders all of his art with these beautiful designs, almost like a picture frame. He left Russia to live abroad, but he returned in 1936. Bilibin considered himself not only an artist but also “a philologist, so to speak, or student of folklore.” He saw fairy tales as part as folkloric society, by seeing things with “embroidery”, “printed patterns on cloths, wood carvings, folk architecture, and folk pictures.” He died during the siege of Leningrad, in the winter of 1942, but his work lives on today.

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