Berlin; Paris: Russkoe iskusstvo, 1921-1926. #1-14. Ca. 32x25 cm. Every issue in illustrated wrappers. Generally very good, some mild soiling, with tiny tears and losses of the spine (#1,2,12,14), foxing and piece of tape on the spine (#13).
A complete set. Extremely rare in wrappers. Lavishly illustrated throughout
with black and white and color plates with captions. Print run was approximately 300
Zhar-ptitsa is ‘perhaps the most famous of post-revolutionary art journals,
whose contributors threw new light on the development of Russian art at the
beginning of the twentieth century’ (Fekula).
By the early 1920s, a large Russian emigre colony had formed in Germany,
and the hyperinflation that swept over the country turned it into a paradise for
publishers who found the conditions under which the output of books was much
cheaper than anywhere else in Western Europe. All this caused a ‘Russian book boom’
on the banks of the Rhine: about 50 Russian publishers worked in Berlin at that time.
That’s where Firebird was born thanks to the first Russian emigrants.
The editorial board and the financing of the magazine was taken over
by the owner of the publishing house ‘Russian Art’ A.E. Kogan, the editor of the art
department was a well-known art historian and artist G.K. Lukomsky, and Sasha
Cherny was in charge of the the literary department (it was mostly published articles
of Russian emigrants of the 1920s). Among organizers of the magazine was Vladimir
Nabokov. When the affairs of the new edition went uphill, publishers began to give a
parallel English translation of the texts. ‘‘Russian emigrants ... are engaged in gossip
and accusations of each other’’, the newspaper Vremya complained. ‘‘But now the
Firebird appeared and showed us that Russian art is alive, it is still great and we can
be proud of it.’’
With the edition collaborated the best ‘pens’ of the abroad: Vladimir Nabokov
(under the pseudonym V. Syrin), L. Andreev, V. Khodasevich, K. Balmont, A.N. Tolstoy, A.
Remizov, B. Zaitsev, N. Teffi, B. Pilniak, et al. The undoubted merit of the publication is
that it printed works of gifted authors whose names were firmly forgotten in the Soviet
era (e.g. Grebenshchikov). Reviews and critical essays were printed. The chronicle
department regularly reported on theatrical premieres and opening days.
Despite financial difficulties publishers did their best to support the artistic
and polygraphic level of the magazine: the numbers were printed on fine coated
paper, the best graphic designers were involved in cooperation. For each number
cover designs were ordered, and recognized artists of book graphics were selected as
performers. Thus, Chekhonin prepared the cover for #1, I. Bilibin for #2, 4, 5 and 14, B.
Kustodiev for #3 & 9, N. Goncharova for #10, B. Grigoriev for #11, M. Larionov for #3,12, for #13 - L. Bakst. The brand of the publishing house was made by artist Boris
Grosberg. Interior decorations are reproduced from the drawings of S. Chekhonin, I.
Bilibin, N. Goncharova, M. Brubel, N. Rerikh, L. Brailovsky, L. Chirikov, B. Kustodiev, et
al. The magazine actively cooperated with the greatest figures of Russian art like B.
Grigoriev, M. Shagal, K. Somov, L. Bakst, Makovskii, V. Shukhaev, Sudeikin, A. Benois, A.
Yakovlev, and all other members of Mir Iskusstva [i.e. World of Art].