Illustration of The Tale of Tsar Saltan, from Alexander S Pushkin
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In this illustration to accompany the poem ‘The Tale of Tsar Saltan’ by Alexander Pushkin (later developed into an opera), Bilbin succeeds in creating a colourful fantasy for Pushkin’s readers. In the foreground two figures stand (and lay) amongst a luscious flower bed in full bloom. The colours are bright and placed in close proximity to each other. There are additional complex patterns in the traditional costumes of the two women, creating a visually stimulating foreground. In the distance is the mysterious island Buyan which is depicted in more vivid, largely primary, colours than the area with the figures. The island features many traditional Russian architectural ‘onion’ domes and Bochka roofs. The artist’s wife Mary Chambers was also an illustrator, mostly for children’s stories. By the time of this illustration’s creation their first son had already been born; this could add a sense of sentimentality and care in the piece as a children’s story. This illustration by Bilibin demonstrates well the various influences on his work. Following his studying in Munich, the influence of the Art Nouveau movement can be seen in the thickly outlined, delicate geometric patterns within the illustration. One can also see the influence of Japanese Woodcuts in the shape of the piece.