Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Moscow-based guest artist Maria Shishova, celebrates the renowned Russian poet and author Zinaida Gippius. Born in the town of Belyov on this day in 1869, Gippius wrote verse, plays, novels, short stories, and essays as well as founding and editing an influential journal called The New Path. One of Russia’s best known female writers at the turn of the century, she is considered one of the founders of Russia’s Symbolist movement.
Raised in a family with three younger sisters, Gippius began writing poetry at the age of seven and published her work as a teenager. She met the writer Dmitry Merezhkovsky when she was 19 and married soon after. She insisted on absolute gender equality in their marriage. Gippius also published literary criticism under a male pen name.
Along with the writer Valery Briusov, the couple—known collectively as the “Brotherhood of Three”—ushered in new modes of thinking and writing during a period known as Russia’s “Silver Age.” Their journal, as well as their salon in St. Petersburg, became a center of progressive art and culture, coinciding with a time of great social change in Russia.
Gippius’s verse was intensely personal and focused on individual feelings, and her stylistic and formal innovations would prove extremely influential. Around the time of the Russian Revolution, Gippius and Merezhkovsky’s outspoken views compelled them to move from their homeland. They spent time in Poland, Italy, and France, where they helped assemble a group of like-minded Russian émigrés in Paris.
With her absolute commitment to creativity, Gippius’s commitment to freedom of expression continues to inspire generations of artists.
Guest Artist Q&A with Masha Shishova
Today’s Doodle was produced by Moscow-based artist Masha Shishova. Below, she shares her thoughts behind the making of this Doodle:
Q: Why was this topic meaningful to you personally?
A: I love Russian art at the beginning of the 20th century. It was a hard time for the country, but beautiful for the artistic world. In Russia, it is called the Silver Age of poetry and Gippius was one of the central figures in this world. I love the fact that she was such a contradictory character, powerful and enigmatic.
Q: What were your first thoughts when you were approached about the project?
A: I thought “Oh wow, great! I need to create an edgy character,” and that’s the most exciting thing for me in an illustration. She was a beautiful woman who loved to confront society’s standards. It's also about Russian Symbolism that was dark, mysterious, and magical. I like the aesthetics a lot.
Q: Did you draw inspiration from anything in particular for this Doodle?
A: My main reference was definitely the portrait of Gippius by Lev Bakst. I liked the attitude of Zinaida in this drawing, her pose, and her facial expression like she doesn't care at all what you might think of her. I wanted to express the same attitude in my Doodle. I've also listened to different documental podcasts about Gippius, her life, and her poetry.
Q: What message do you hope people take away from your Doodle?
A: I hope by seeing this Doodle, people will want to know more about Gippius, her art, the time she lived in, and other poets and artists that surrounded her.
Early concept sketch & draft of the Doodle