I first came across Ivan Bilibin’s work a couple of years ago through one of my favorite contemporary illustrators who goes by Sin Eater. He cited him as a powerful influence and ended up showing a number of beautiful pieces by him when he was invited as a guest curator on Den of Ink, a sort of showcase project on Instagram run by fellow illustrator Richey Beckett. If you ever get a chance to check that out by the way, some of the curators have pulled some wonderful and obscure pieces to showcase for their guest spots. Very much worth a look!
This illustration from Ruslan and Ludmilla was of of the first things I had seen from his body of work, and the sumptuous dress and ethereal, cosmic quality it had captivated me. His other works in colour quickly became favorites as well, and though limited in palette they have a charming folk quality to them, much like many of the stories they illuminate.
I’d like to try some watercolor work of this nature at some point, and may in fact do this for the next project if I have the chance to. I’ve been collecting books of folk tales for some time and would love to try illustrating some of them in a more colorful style when I have an opportunity.
On a sad note, after a long career of illustration and stage design for theatre Ivan pined to return home to Russia from his apartment in Paris and did so, just in time to experience the Nazi invasion of Russia. He and 1,500,000 others perished of starvation in the siege of Leningrad, dying in obscurity at the hands of man-made famine.