Иван Яковлевич Билибин, or for those who can't read the cyrylic alphabet: Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin, was one of the most important illustrators and stage designers in Eastern Europe of the 20th century.
Education and inspirations
He was born on the 16th of August 1876 (it was Wednesday) in Saint Petersburg, Russia. Before he became a student of the great Ilya Repin
, he studied at the Art School of Anton Ažbe
in Munich in 1898, so you can see that he gathered quite a good art education.
From 1902 to 1904 he travelled around Russian North. He became fairly inspired by the folklore of these areas, as well as by its architecture; he noted his collected impressions and described them in a monograph entitled Folk Arts of the Russian North. As you can probably notice by his works, he was also influenced by Japanese prints and Art Nouveau.
Illustrations and design
His illustrations to Russian faery tales from 1899 made him famous. The most recognisable pictures from that year are the ones of Vasilisa the Beautiful (one of them you can see next to his portrait painted by Boris Kustodiev at the top and some other below).
Later on, during the Russian Revolution of 1905
he painted revolutionary cartoons. Bilibin also worked as a stage designer for a number of Russian operas and plays, of which the most famous one was The Golden Cockerel
produced by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
10 years of homesickness
Bilibin left Russia when the October Revolution
struck and through Egypt he travelled to Paris, where he settled for about 10 years. He missed his homeland, though. In 1936 he decorated the Soviet Embassy and that was too much to bear - he decided to return to Russia, which had already turned to Soviet Russia by then, and his birthplace Saint Petersburg was renamed to Leningrad.
In Leningrad, he accepted an offer to be a lecturer in the Soviet Academy of Arts and he worked there until 1941, when the great Siege of Leningrad
started. He didn't survive the deadly 872 days of the siege - Ivan Bilibin died on the 7th of February 1942, 5 months after it started.