Tuesday, March 1, 2011

From a different corner of the globe

What most of us are exposed to in illustration is somewhat limited—to artists published in English speaking material—there is a whole world out there, most of which has been publishing books as long as Great Britain and the USA have. Some of "our" best artists will find publication in other languages, and some of the best from other parts of the world occasionally "cross over," and get published here. Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942) Was a Russian-born illustrator, who worked on book illustration all throughout most of his career, though sharing that time with stage design in the latter part.

Bilibin's earliest working years were not spent solely in illustration; other employment would contribute to his direction and design sense for the rest of his life. In 1902 he was working for an office of the Russian Museum, to record folk art in the outer reaches of the country. For two years he was a field agent of sorts, observing and collecting the art that defined the Russian culture. It's easy to see how this permeates his work—Architecture, costume, all aspects of regional design, and its importance, all come through in Bilibin's book illustration. His work from then (and before) to the early 1910's, was largely traditional Russian folk and fairy tales.

My first encounters with his imagery came on notecards, (the top image with the wolf-rider has been haunting my bulletin boards for nearly 3 decades...) and a few years later, in the Time-Life Enchanted World Series, where they published the tale of Baba Yaga in the volume on Wizards and Witches. His work has incredible graphic quality, and is very distinct in its appearance, with flat areas of color in a hard drawn outline, somewhat resembling a complex stained-glass sketch. Relative design elements frame many of his illustrations.

Jim Vadeboncouer's Bilibin Bio

1 comment:

Joyce said...

Wonderful Jeff, I love the edge designs as much as the illustrations. The costume accuracy reminds me of a display we saw in St. Petersberg in 1992 at the School of the Decorative Arts' Baron Stieglitz Museum. One of the turn-of-the-centyury professors had collected information about the various Russian clothing styles and then made costumed dolls of the dozens of regional styles of decoration and clothing throughout the Russian empire (pre-Soviet) so students would have visual comparisons to use in their work.