After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in St Petersburg under Ilya Repin, a founding member of Mir Iskusstva
(World of Art), Bilibin also joined the group. His interest in Russian folk tales, or bylini
, led him to work in book illustration and with the striking combination of his modern graphic style with ancient folk subjects he soon achieved renown. In 1920 Bilibin left Russia for Egypt where he spent five years before eventually settling in Paris. There he worked predominantly as a theatre artist, contributing to the Ballets Russes and designing set and costume designs for productions of Rimsky-Korsakov's Tsar Saltan
, Borodin's Prince Igor
and Stravinsky's Fire Bird
Dating to his post-emigration period and therefore signed in Latin, the present lot illustrates a scene from the popular Russian folk tale Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What. For a similar, but later work, see S. Golynets, Ivan Bilibin, Leningrad: Aurora, 1988, pl. 167.