Vladimir Vasilyevich Lebedev

Vladimir Vasilyevich Lebedev

1891 —1967
  • People's artist of the RSFSR (1966)
  • Corresponding Member of the USSR Academy of Arts (1967)
Vladimir Lebedev is a renowned Russian Soviet painter, a brilliant book and magazine illustrator, and an accomplished graphic artist. Lebedev is considered to be a creator of the true children's book in Russia because he has set such a high standard for children's illustrations in the USSR and turned a children's book into a work of art. Lebedev's book illustration surprisingly combines the traditions of book graphics of the "World of Art" movement and futurists. The artist's first children books were produced by the 'Rainbow' (Радуга) publishing house. One of his first significant works were illustrations to R. Kipling's "The Elephant's Child", released in 1921. The permanent co-author of Vladimir Vasilyevich was an outstanding Soviet children's writer and translator, Samuil Marshak. These books have brought glory and popularity to the artist. Marshak considered Lebedev not just as an illustrator, but as a creator and author along with a poet or novelist. Lebedev was leading a group of Leningrad illustrators of children's books.

Lebedev was born on May 26, 1891, in St. Petersburg in a humble household of mechanic. As a child, Lebedev has demonstrated a fervent enthusiasm for drawing, and used to develop his artistic skills copying picturesque postcards. The young man studied at the Petrovsky commercial school. Vladimir Vasilyevich began receiving art education in 1909, when he started to visit the private Studio of A. I. Titov. He also went to the art studio of F. A. Roubaud, and was trained at the School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture of M. D. Bernstein and L. V. Sherwood. Vladimir Vasilyevich's drawings were published in magazines even at the very early stage of his career: in the beginning of the 1910s, he has started to work for the famous satirical journal 'Satiricon' (Сатирикон), and later 'New Satiricon' (Новый Сатирикон). In 1913, Lebedev joined the artistic society 'Union of Youth'. Curiously, Lebedev could always compensate for the lack of systematic, formal art education with various artistic practical experiences and projects as he was involved in many artistic enterprises from a young age as well as actively showing his work at the exhibitions. Moreover, he was a Professor of Petrograd State Free Art and Training Workshops from 1918 to 1921. Lebedev worked as an Illustrator in children's magazines, such as 'Jackdaw' (Галчонок), 'Blue Journal' (Синий Журнал), 'Everyone's Journal' (Журнал для всех), 'Argus' (Аргус). The ideas of avant-garde, and especially Cubism, have not gone unnoticed by the artist. In his series of paintings, 'The Laundry Maids', which was created between 1920 and 1925, Lebedev has boldly experimented with modern artistic trends. Large-scale political, satirical posters ROSTA Windows (Окна РОСТА), produced in the early 1920s, resembling monumental graphics, clearly reflect the principles of Cubism. Lebedev was able to find a new artistic direction for the campaign poster, embodying the ideas of rhythmical composition and the interaction of simplified forms with a contrasting juxtaposition of a handful of bright colours. A series of drawings, which was conceived as a continuation of the posters' idea, 'The Panel of Revolution', made in 1922, has brought even greater success to Vladimir Vasilyevich. The artist joined the artistic group "Unification of New Trends in Art" in the same year. The group's leader, Vladimir Tatlin, was a great inspiration and example for Lebedev. At that time, the artist has managed to make friends with such remarkable cultural figures as I. Puni, K. Malevich, V. Mayakovsky, with whom Lebedev occasionally worked in the same room, and later, in the 1930s, D. Shostakovich, with whom Lebedev became friends because of their common passion - sports.

From 1924 to 1933, Lebedev successfully headed the art department of children's book section of the state publishing house, engaging the most talented illustrators, N. Tyrsa, V. Konashevich, V. Ermolaev, N. Lapshin, and, demonstrating exceptional leadership skills by being an example and mentor to young talents such as A. Pakhomov, Y. Vasnetsov, E. Charushin, V. Kurdov. Despite the fact that Lebedev worked all his life as an artist of children's books, he was able to realise his multifaceted talent in other areas of visual art as well. In the 1930s and 1940s, Vladimir Vasilyevich was painting a lot of portraits of friends, athletes, sailors, and fighters - the artist was fascinated by the unity of body and spirit. Lebedev was often drawing nudes emphasising the physical culture. In the early 1930s, Lebedev was harshly criticised in the press for his illustrations with accusations of formalism coming from the state, which led to a major ideological campaign against the artist. This injustice greatly influenced both the state of mind and the work of Vladimir Vasilyevich, leading to some caution in his style, avoiding avant-garde manifestations, adding more realism and conventional "beauty" to his art. The artist moved to Moscow in 1941, where he lived until 1950, creating campaign posters in cooperation with the TASS Windows. Returning to Leningrad, Vladimir Vasilyevich continued to work on children's books. In the last ten years of his life, the artist led a rather reclusive life, not appearing in public and seeing only close friends. Lebedev died on November 21, 1967, at the age of seventy-six years, in Leningrad, and was buried at the Bogoslovskoe Cemetry in St. Petersburg. Vladimir Vasilyevich's works are stored in the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum, the Tula Regional Art Museum, and other significant collections.

Петров, В., Н. (1972) Владимир Васильевич Лебедев. 1891-1967. Ленинград: Художник РСФСР.
Попов, Н., И. (1972) Владимир Васильевич Лебедев: Каталог выставки. Ленинград: Гос. Русский Музей.
Пунин, Н., Н. (1928) Владимир Васильевич Лебедев. Ленинград: Комитет Популяризации Художественных Изданий При Государственной Академии Истории Материальной Культуры.
Пушкарев, В. (1974) В. В. Лебедев. Рисунки. Ленинград: Аврора.
(n. d.) "Владимир Васильевич Лебедев" [online] Самуил Маршак. Available at: