by Scholes, Robert
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Ivan Bilibin (1876 - 1942)
Born in Tarkhovka near St Petersburg, Bilibin was the son of a physician who trained as an artist and a lawyer, but whose inner conviction lead him to become an illustrator of books, mainly based on stylised Russian folk and medieval art.
While studying at the studio of Princess Maria Tenesheva under Ilya Repin he was commissioned by the government Department for the Production of State Documents to illustrate a series of Russian folk stories. This series, eventually published in six slim paperback volumes brought him to the attention of the newly formed World of Art (Mir Istkusstva) group headed by Serge Diaghilev and Alexander Benois. Commissions for their journal followed and established Bilibin within that circle which was to become the basis of his career as an illustrator and a stage designer.
His work for the Grand-Opera in Paris on Diaghilev's production of Mussorgski's Boris Godunov brought him world acclaim, though it is with his satirical work on the Zimin Theatre's staging of Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel in 1908 that he attained true greatness in this field.