Two book illustrations by the great Russian artist Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin (1876-1942). Bilibin was probably the most influential art nouveau illustrator in Russia. He himself studied under Ilya Repin and was later fascinated with old folkloric Russian art of the Russian North.
Despite there are many historically correct details in his illustrations he never pretended to be "realistic" like so many academic painters at this time. He tired much more to catch the spirit of Russian past.
History painting dates back to the Renaissance and was long considered to be the "grand genre". Nevertheless it has its peak in the 19th century forged by Neoclassicism and Romanticism. There it became the artistic contribution in the process of the construction of National Identities of the European and American nations.
At the same time history painting under the influence of historism pretended to be "realistic", to show history how it has been. Above all it was this pretension that led to the great failure of History painting AND Realism at the end of the century.
When artists and their public realized that telling history always will be subjective and a painting will always be an illusion Realism and history painting lost their ground to modern painting.