From fairy-tales to stamps: Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin10 2018

From fairy-tales to stamps: Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin

A fairy-tale artist Ivan Bilibin lived a long and eventful creative life. He was a book illustrator; a stage designer; created a multitude of advertisement posters and calendars; was the author of the emblem of the Interjacent Government. He became a famous artist before the revolution, spent many years in exile and returned to the homeland in the decline of years. Bilibins creativity is intertwined with the history of Goznak inextricably.

Ivan Bilibin co-operated with the Expedition of Storing State Papers for many years. It was here that the Russian folk tales and Alexander Pushkins fairy-tales with the artists illustrations, as well as postage stamps made according to his sketches, were published.

Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin was born in 1876 near Saint Petersburg in the family of a military doctor. He studied to become a lawyer and graduated from the Law Department of the Saint Petersburg University successfully. Studies at the University did not prevent him from training as a painter simultaneously, and at the end of the 1890s Bilibin created a series of paintings illustrating the Russian folk tales.

Those paintings attracted interest of Duke Boris Golitsyn, Head of the Expedition of Storing State Papers. He offered co-operation to the artist, and soon the Expedition of Storing State Papers published a series of fairy-tales destined to become legendary. In a few years (in 1905 and 1907), there appeared Pushkins fairy-tales illustrated by Bilibin The Tale of Tsar Saltan and The Tale of the Golden Cockerel. The inimitable style of their design was called Bilibins; it is recognized immediately. Bilibins book illustrations are atmospheric and decorative, they dip the reader into the world of tales and legends. These books were republished at Goznak a few times in the 20th century. Postcards with Bilibins fairy-tale paintings were also produced.

Bilibin was linked to the Expedition of Storing State Papers not only with book illustrations. The artist also participated in designing the projects of postage stamps dedicated to the 300th anniversary of the House of Romanovs the first commemorative postage stamps of Russia issued in 1913. The Russian sovereigns of the Romanov dynasty, from Mikhail Fedorovich to Nikolay II were depicted on them; views of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg, the Moscow Kremlin, the Chambers of the Romanov Boyars in Zaryadie were on stamps with high face values. Besides Bilibin, other famous artists E. Lansere and R. Zarrin worked upon their sketches. These stamps were designed for a few years under the personal control of Nikolay II who then kept the album with trial prints of the stamps as one of the most precious family treasures until his death in the summer of 1918.

There was another thread connecting the artist to the Expedition of Storing State Papers. Ivan was the artist of the emblem of the Interjacent Government based upon the images of the epoch of Tsar Ivan III the two-headed eagle with drooping wings without the imperial regalia. The emblem soon decorated the new Russian banknotes dumkas and kerenkas printed at the Expedition of Storing State Papers.

The masters original paintings illustrations to the Russian folk tales and sketches of the postage stamps are treasured at the Preservation Fund of Goznak.

Yana Ushakova,
The Exhibition Complex of Goznak

Translated by Tatiana Ugryumova
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