Vladimir Lebedev (1891–1967)
Vladimir Lebedev was a Soviet painter and graphic artist who was at the forefront of children’s books during a complex, turbulent period in Soviet history.
He became famous for his pioneering and innovative illustrations which were featured in the poetic works of prominent poet and translator Samuil Marshak (‘Circus’, ‘Ice Cream’, ‘Tale About a Foolish Mouse’, ‘Moustached’ and ‘Striped, Book of Many Colours’, ‘Twelve Months’ and ‘Luggage’).
As a young boy, Lebedev started to paint postcards that were sold in a shop in Saint Petersburg. At the age of nineteen, he held his first exhibition at the Academy of Fine Arts.
In 1913, he began to work as a cartoonist for several satirical journals, including the famed “Satirikon”. At this time he was already a prolific illustrator for the children’s magazines ‘Jackdaw’, ‘Blue Journal’, ‘Everyone’s Journal’ and ‘Argus’.
From 1920-1922, Lebedev worked for The Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) and at The Department of Agitation (Agitprop) where he designed propaganda posters.
By the 1920s, Lebedev counted many distinguished people among his friends, such as Tatlin, Ivan Puni, Kazimir Malevich, Vladimir Mayakovsky and the literary critic Nikolai Punin.
King of the Children’s Book
In the 1920s, Lebedev had earned the title of ‘King of the Children’s Book’. A pioneer in the field of children’s illustration, he would later say on the influence of his works “I’m glad to have positively influenced the the history of Soviet children’s books, and more importantly, that children’s books are now recognized as a category of books with their own character.”