Всё гениальное просто (Genius is simplicity)

by chuckofish

This week I’ve spent a lot of time looking at wallpaper for my very tiny front hall/foyer. I’ve found so many cool things, including this lovely William Morris paper from W.A.S. Benson.

william morris

For some reason, this got me thinking about one of my favorite illustrators, Ivan Bilibin, a Russian who worked during the first half of the 20th century (this is how my mind works). Born in St. Petersburg, Bilibin is famous for his illustrations of Russian fairy tales. I don’t know what this one is about, but it looks pretty creepy.


I love his patterns and textiles,


his lighting,


colors, and soft lines.

this was a stage set he designed

this was a stage set he designed

And let’s not forget that pervasive Russian melancholybilibin4

and (kind of ominous) romance.

ivan-bilibin-maria-marevna-1351091050_bHis border designs are also cool, don’t you think?

As a young man, Bilibin studied art in St. Petersburg before traveling into the wastes of northern Russia, where the folk tales, wooden architecture, and people captured his imagination. Here he is as a debonaire young man in 1901.

Debonaire in 1901

Poor Mr. Bilibin’s life did not end well,  however.  Although he left Russia for Paris during the Revolution,  homesickness drove him back — just in time for WWII. He died during the siege of Leningrad and was buried in a mass grave (you can read all about it on Wikipedia).

Here’s to the memory of Ivan Bilibin, whose simple genius transformed peasant stories into beautiful paintings.