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Monday, November 06, 2017

Illustrators #20 (Autumn 2017)

The latest, twentieth, issue of Illustrators takes a look at The Russian Romantics in three lengthy essays written by Diego Cordoba and Peter Richardson (deputy editor and editor respectively). It's one of the most beautifully illustrated issues the magazine has published.

In 'The Wanderers', Cordoba examines a large group of Russian artists who led a semi-nomadic existence, staging exhibitions of their artwork in towns and villages they passed through as they travelled. The Peredvizhniki (Itinerants) movement developed in the 1870s, taking the realism of precursors like Pavel Fedotov, who rose to brief fame in the 1840s, to new levels. Like Fedotov, their subject matter was often rural landscapes and the rugged peasants who lived and worked in the countryside. Growing out of the earlier Artist Artel, an artists union founded in the 1860s, the Wanderers refused to depict the glories of the Russian state in favour of social realism, folk tales, Bible stories and historic events.

The artwork that accompanies the article is astonishingly beautiful. Examples of works by Ilya Repkin, Ivan Shishkin, Konstantin Makovsky, Victor Vasnetsov and Grigory Miasoyedov will introduce you to a raft of names that you probably won't recognise but whose paintings are stunning. I'll admit that they were all new to me and this review has taken a lot longer to write than its length would suggest, thanks to my overwhelming curiosity to learn more and Google Images.

The remainder of the issue is devoted to two individual artists, Franz Roubaud and Ivan Bilibin. Roubaud is described as the Russian Frederic Remington, due to his appreciation of rugged landscapes and the lifestyles of horsemen that they both focused their attentions on.

Bilibin on the other hand is best known for illustrating Russian fairy stories and his picture books have been in constant print. Despite this, little is known about his life, beyond the fact that it was turbulent and tangled, especially by his desire to marry many times without the minor detail of divorcing earlier wives.

For more information on Illustrators and back issues, visit the Book Palace website, where you can also find details of their online editions, and news of upcoming issues. Issue 21 will feature Rodney Matthews, Stevan Dohanos, J. Allen St. John and Lucy Kemp-Welch and there is an upcoming special issue that will feature some of the best Italian artwork from the old war comics' libraries.

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