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7 creative lives of the artist Ivan Bilibin, who painted truly terrible tales

Most ordinary people, living their lives, learn one profession and believe that this is quite enough. Creative individuals often work in several related fields. But only a few can boast that they created something significant in completely different fields of activity. Ivan Bilibin, who could be called a “truly scary artist”, seems to have managed to live not only one creative life, but seven as many as 66 years.

1. Promising lawyer

The silver medal of the First St. Petersburg Classical Gymnasium and a law degree obtained in 1900 after graduating from the law faculty of St. Petersburg University, it seems, should have predetermined the fate of young Ivan Bilibin, according to the ardent desire of his father, on the solid ground of judicial or public service. However, he himself decided otherwise. Along with studying at the university, a young man begins to receive an art education, even for some time studies under the guidance of Ilya Efimovich Repin, he becomes an active member of the art world, and he forgets about his legal career.

2. Illustrator

It was in this creative field that Ivan Bilibin first found his own unique style, and it is his illustrations to Russian fairy tales that we know and love well. It is widely known that a true Russian province became a source of inspiration for the artist. In 1899, a case brought him to the village of Yegny in the Tver province, and after this trip he creates illustrations for his first book of Russian fairy tales

It is amazing that the unique style, which will then be called “Bilibino”, was found by him almost immediately, and then only developed. Whether it was a mystical insight, inspiration from the beauty of Russian nature or the result of many days of meticulous work, but all the works of the original artist are imbued with a genuine love for Russia and a real fairy-tale spirit.

The characters of Bilibin, sometimes very humane, sometimes truly scary, immediately fell in love with readers. Ornament, framing of drawings, special stylized fonts – this artist does not skimp on such “trifles”, from which his author’s style is created. The drawing technique itself, for which colleagues nicknamed it “Ivan the Iron Hand”, is also quite complicated and requires high accuracy. The books illustrated by him resemble painted boxes or antique manuscripts.

3. Theater decorator

Along with work on book illustrations, Ivan Bilibin begins to actively participate in the design of theatrical productions. He prepares sketches of sets and theatrical costumes for the operas Golden Cockerel, Sadko, Ruslan and Lyudmila. By the way, much later, being in exile, he will become known in Paris as a decorator of the opera Boris Godunov and Stravinsky’s ballet The Firebird.

4. Commercial illustration specialist

This is a little-known page in the creative biography of the famous artist, but for some time Ivan Bilibin collaborated with the New Bavaria beer and mead brewery. In addition, he custom-painted posters, addresses, sketches of postage stamps and postcards.

5. Connoisseur of heraldry

There is one work of Ivan Bilibin, which in its popularity and mass circulation is undoubtedly superior to all the others, although its authorship is known only to a narrow circle of specialists. This is a heraldic double-headed eagle, which we see daily on Russian coins. The artist created this emblem by order of the Provisional Government. Bilibin transferred the copyright to it to the Goznak factory, and since 1992 this figure has been part of the design of all banknotes of the Russian Federation.

6. Master of church painting

Leaving revolutionary Russia, Bilibin first lived in Cairo. It was there that he first touched church painting, participating in the design of the house church at the hospital. In Prague, the famous artist created sketches of the iconostasis and frescoes for the Russian church. Later, in Paris, he will even become a founding member of the Icon Society.

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