Bilibin, Ivan Iakovlevich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bilibin, Ivan Iakovlevich


Born Aug. 4 (16), 1876, in Tarkhovka, near St. Petersburg; died Feb. 7, 1942, in Leningrad. Russian graphic artist, illustrator, and scenic artist.

Bilibin studied in Munich with A. Ažbé in 1898, in St. Petersburg with I. E. Repin in the studio school of K. Tenisheva (1898–1900), and at the Academy of Arts as a non-credit student (1900–04). He was a member of the Mir iskusstva (World of Art) association. In 1905–06 he worked on the satirical magazines Adskaia Pochta and Zhupel, which published his caricatures of the tsarist autocracy. He taught in the school maintained by the Society for Encouragement of Fine Arts (1907–17). During 1920–36 he lived abroad in Egypt and France. He became a professor at the Leningrad Academy of Art in 1936. He created the distinctive “Bilibin style” of book illustration, characterized by a refined stylization of the motifs of folk and medieval Russian art (including popular prints, embroidery, wood carving, and miniatures). Its strict graphic quality, flat forms, and ornamental and decorative manner of overall treatment bring Bilibin’s works close to the modern graphic style.

Bilibin’s best-known works are the poetic and colorful illustrations of Russian fairy tales and byliny (epics), which recreate the fairytale and fantastic world of Russian folklore. Bilibin used the graphically ornamental style of his book illustrations in his theatrical works. His most famous works are the illustrations for the bylina Vol’ga (published in 1904), Pushkin’s The Golden Cockerel (published in 1910), and Lermontov’s Song About Merchant Kalashnikov (published in 1941); and his studies for sets and costumes for Rimsky-Korsakov’s operas Le Coq d’Or (1909, S. I. Zimin Opera Theater, Moscow) and Tsar Sultan (1937, S. M. Kirov Leningrad Theater of Opera and Ballet).


“Narodnoie tvorchestvo russkogo Severa.” Mir iskusstva, 1904, no. 11.


Lipovich, I. N. I. Ia. Bilibin. Leningrad, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.