Thursday, 18 August 2011

Gennady Spirin

The next in my little series on my favourite illustrators is another Russian.  Gennady Spirin was born on Christmas Day, 1948, in the small town of Orekhove-Zuyevo, near Moscow.  He studied at the Surikov Art Institute at the Academy of Arts in Moscow, and also the Moscow Stroganov Institute of Art.

Spirin has illustrated over 30 children's books, and won four golden medals from the Society of Illustrators in New York, as well as several other awards. He moved to the US in 1991 at the invitation of two publishers, and settled in Princeton, New Jersey, as that was where his editor lived.  He has a wife and three sons, speaks almost no English, and is a practicing Russian Orthodox Christian.   Apart from that, I cannot find any other information about him!  No Wikipedia entry, no official website, nothing!

His illustrations are watercolours, very delicate but at the same time full of rich colours and incredible detail.  I first came across his work in the illustrations he did for one of Madonna's children's books, called Yakov and the Seven Thieves. The story, a tale of an Eastern European couple in the 1700s who try to help their ill son, is rather trite, but the illustrations are divine. Apparently, Spirin never met Madonna, and had no contact with her, dealing only with the publisher, and his name was not included on the cover of the book, appearing only on the title page.

Spirin has illustrated several traditional Russian fairy tales, such as in The Tale of the Firebird, where he combines the tales of the Firebird, Baba Yaga, and Koshchei the Immortal.

 I love all the border decoration, this is exactly the kind of stuff I would love to do if I had the talent!  The costumes seem to be well-researched too, always a plus in my book.

Spirin has also illustrated more well-known fairy tales such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  His bears, dressed up in lavish Tudor costumes, are just gorgeous!  You can see more illustrations from this book here.

The Little Mermaid

I'll leave you with some random images from some of his other books, all very lush and yet ethereal at the same time. Beautiful.

The Princess and the Pea

Thumbelia (I presume!)


  1. They are truly exquisite. I wonder why no credit on Madge's book?? Curious. Behind the scenes with kids books, esp PBS, can be fascinating! A veritable soap opera. Anyway, thanks so much for sharing! jx

  2. So beautiful! I have not heard of him before, thanks for shining a light on his artistry.