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Illustrating the free melody of Russian song

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Ivan Bilibin was a painter, graphic artist, and stage designer. He studied in Munich and St. Petersburg (under I.E.Repin) and contributed to the magazine Mir Iskusstva (World of Art). Several of his stylized illustrations of Russian folk tales are shown on this page. The following description of Bilibin's work is from a 1926 issue of the Russian magazine Firebird, sent to The Home Forum by Marina Bliss.

BILIBIN is one of the most perfect modern Russian artists. He has always proved strict toward himself and toward his art and remained firm and clear in his style. He has exercised a deep influence upon many of his contemporaries and has formed a whole school of followers.

In the summer of 1899, Ivan Bilibin executed his first illustrations for the Russian popular tales: ``Ivan Tsarevich,'' ``Vasilissa the Beautiful,'' and ``Tsarevna the Frog.'' These youthful watercolor sketches set forth all the charm of his imagination. His penetration into the concealed and mysterious world of ancient Russia exhibited all the keen and deep charm of his coloring, and the incontestable mastery of his hand and line.

The artist has executed a good many of the most diverse works, but all of them reveal one genuine and loving thought: the beauty of Russian nature, Russian people, Russian soul, and Russian antiquity. His longing to have a unique style gives a clear and a perfect expression to the images that appear to the painter's mind. Whereas Repin and Sourikoff had chosen tragic epochs of history, Bilibin received a brighter and a lighter inheritance: the lovely and free melody of Russian song, the rich and deep radiance of the old ornament, the cool spaciousness of the northern sky, the rustling of the thick grass of our forests. These fancies, this poetry of many generations, were incarnated in the artist (mind that his forefathers were eminent and wealthy citizens of Kalooga, one of the oldest towns of Muscovite Russia). In his works we see the last smile and the last enchantment of old Russia.


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