Don’t Stop Bilibin’

Lately I’m in a very Russian mood, probably due to the changes in weather.  Winter is fast approaching, the streets are cold and the indoors are barely better; life is hard.

And lonely.

Life is hard and lonely.  Very Russian.

Perhaps it is this mood that attracts me to the vibrant work of the Russian illustrator, Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin.

Prolific in the early 1900’s, Bilibin specialized in illustrating folklore, mostly Russian and Slavic.  He was also influenced by Japanese woodblock prints, evidenced by his use of flat color and gestural line.

 

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Bilibin, Maria Morevna and Koschei the Wizard, 1900

 

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Bilibin, Maria Morevna and Koschei the Wizard, 1900

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Bilibin, Maria Morevna and Koschei the Wizard, 1900

 

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Bilibin, Maria Morevna and Koschei the Wizard, 1900

 

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Bilibin, Maria Morevna and Koschei the Wizard, 1900

 

The butt-naked dude pictured above is Koschei the Deathless, a Russian folklore sorceror who (in my opinion) inspired Voldemort of Harry Potter fame.

Bilibin stands apart from other contemporary illustrators in his intelligent, unique approach to color.  His work is brilliant and vibrant, but not gaudy.  I also like his sparing (relative to other Russian artists) use of ornaments.

Excuse while I dump an enormous mass of Russian illustration on you.

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Bilibin, Sister Alenushka and brother Ivanushka, 1902

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Bilbin, The Feather of Finist the Falcon, 1900

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Bilbin, The Feather of Finist the Falcon, 1900

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Bilibin, The Frog Princess, 1900

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Bilibin, The Frog Princess, 1900

Firebird

Bilibin, The Tale of Prince Ivan, The Firebird and the Grey Wolf, 1899

 

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Bilibin, The Tale of Prince Ivan, The Firebird and the Grey Wolf, 1899

 

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Bilibin, The Tale of Prince Ivan, The Firebird and the Grey Wolf, 1899

 

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Bilibin, The Tale of Prince Ivan, The Firebird and the Grey Wolf, 1899

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Bilibin, The Tale of Tsar Saltan, 1905

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Bilibin, Vasilisa the Beautiful, 1899

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Bilibin, Vasilisa the Beautiful, 1899

Redsun

Bilibin, Vasilisa the Beautiful, 1899

Vasilisa

Bilibin, Vasilisa the Beautiful, 1899

My favorite kind of illustrator is one who has the skills to render a scene beautifully, the imagination to make it fantastic, and the intelligence to let it tell its own story.  Bilibin certainly fits that description.

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6 thoughts on “Don’t Stop Bilibin’

  1. Olivia Taylor

    I think my favorite was the bird pulling at a fellow’s sleeve in “Maria Morevna and Koschei the Wizard”. Is Koschei the Deathless the same old fellow in “Vasilisa the Beautiful” except clothed? The chaps look quite alike.

    Reply
    1. illustratornate Post author

      The character in “Vasilisa the Beautiful” is a Baba Yaga, a strange witch from Russian folklore. She’s really interesting; she usually lives in a hut on chicken’s legs. That thing that she’s sitting in is a giant mortar- she uses the pestle to steer and the broom to sweep away the tracks she leaves behind.

      I do see the resemblance between her and Koschei, though!

      Reply
  2. Pingback: Thursday? I think you mean Ukiyo-E-Day! | Something's Out There

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