Mikhail Bychkov. Illustrations for the books by Leo Tolstoy

From the 24th of April till the 22nd of May 2016 the Leo Tolstoy State Museum with the support of Frolov Gallery will host the exhibition of Mikhail Bychkov – an illustrator from Saint Petersburg. The exhibition will feature original illustrations for two books based on the prose “True stories” and “Sea” by Leo Tolstoy. 36 artworks will be presented at the exhibition.
Mikhail Bychkov is an artist, an illustrator and a designer of Saint Petersburg. Since 1982 he is a member of the Russian Union of Artists. He has performed over 200 projects in the field of illustration and book design. A multiple prizewinner of numerous domestic and international awards and honors, Mikhail holds the honorary diploma of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY).
Bychkov in his creative process pays a special attention to details. All the elements portrayed in his artworks correspond to their historical prototypes – whether it is a sailor suit or a huge ocean liner. Before proceeding to illustrate one or another book the artist carries out a deep research. He consults with the experts in various areas and spends long hours studying the archives.
Mikhail Bychkov explains, “Surely, I am neither an ethnographer nor a historian. I am an artist and whatever I do relates to art. However, I believe that everything that is created for the children should be performed in the most honest way. When it comes to a particular historical epoch, an artist has simply got to spend time on examining the material. There is no way you can afford deceiving a child.”
The technique of Bychkov is quite distinctive. In fact, it is painting on paper. The pictures are very textured, three-dimensional, intensively colored. The flawless painting technique and the inexhaustible imagination of the artist create the entire worlds that are travelled through by the young readers.
Mikhail Bychkov describes his own creative method, “I do not make illustrations. I create the space inhabited by the characters of the fairytale. I live in that world. I am the Puss in Boots and the Ogre, the naive beauty and the magic forest. A child I paint for feels this space just the same way as I do.”
We are pleased to invite all the adults and their children to visit the fabulous exhibition and immerse in the world of fairytales and dreams, created not only by a talented artist but also by a charming person Mikhail Bychkov.
The inspirer of the exhibition – Matvey Frolov.
Web-site of Mikhail Bychkov: http://www.bychkov-books.spb.ru/ob


A brief backstory of the exhibition by Vladimir Frolov:

«I’ve been friends with an amazing book artist Mikhail Bychkov for a long while.
He has accomplished over 200 projects so far in the field of illustration and book design. Among them there are “Three Fat Men”, the fairy tales by Charles Perrault, “Emil of Lönneberga” and “Pippi Longstocking” by Astrid Lindgren, “Nevsky Prospekt” by Nikolai Gogol, “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Peter Pan”, “The Black Hen”, “Silver Hoof” by Pavel Bazhov, “Childhood” by Ivan Surikov and many, many others.
Yet, my acquaintance with the works of Bychkov started with the book “Scarlet Sails” by Alexander Grin, illustrations to which Mikhail had been making for 12 years. And this is the book for which Mikhail has been awarded the honorary diploma of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). And when Bychkov was working on the illustrations for this book, he shaped his own unique technique. That is a large format illustration (30 x 50 cm) that feels like a genuine painting thanks to the highly complex method (tempera, watercolor, acrylic and ink drawing on paper).
In the early 2000s, when I opened a gallery in Moscow and at first represented only the artists of Saint Petersburg, I was successfully selling out these artworks – out of 20 illustrations to “Scarlet Sails” only 5 remained unsold.
However, later on I completely immersed into the vast world of contemporary art. Along with the artists from Petersburg, I started working also with the artists from Moscow, Germany, Spain, USA, etc.
Obviously, I never ceased to love the works of Bychkov, it’s just the format of my gallery that required a full concentration on the contemporary art gallery artists.
We stayed in touch with Mikhail and he has even created a beautiful design for Boris Smelov album made for the exhibition in the State Hermitage in 2009. (This album was issued by a German publishing house KERBER and got nominated for the “Best Photography Album” award in Germany.
Yet, Mikhail as an artist and I did not work together for all these years.
Then, after the birth of Matvey, we once met with Mikhail at his cozy work studio in Saint Petersburg. I was so excited by my new role as a father that I decided to organize some event for adults and kids together with Bychkov in Moscow.
Mikhail Bychkov has just published two new books based on the prose “Sea” and “True Stories” by Leo Tolstoy.
At that time the Leo Tolstoy State Museum at Prechistenka was running an exhibition of Boris Arkadievich Diodorov dedicated to his 80th anniversary. Being a great connoisseur of Bychkov’s art, Boris Arkadievich advised me to donate the copies of these two books to the museum.
That was my first visit to the museum. Everything just perfectly fitted together at that moment. The director of the museum loved the books and the illustrations, so we agreed to organize an exhibition of these illustrations at their venue. As a result, the museum gave us the main ceremonial hall for this exhibition. We decided to hold the opening event on Saturday eve so that our good old friends and colleagues from the art world could come over together with their children.
Hence, I can claim that this exhibition took place thanks to my son Matvey Frolov.
And indeed, as Mikhail Piotrovsky has mentioned at the Innovatsiya Prize last year, “There is no such thing as contemporary or uncontemporary art. There is only art.” »