Narbut was a painter, graphic artist and illustrator born in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine. His family had origins of ancient Lithuanian nobility. His first painting education was self-taught.
At about age 20, Narbut settled in Saint Petersburg from 1906 to 1917. There he studied with painters Ivan Bilibin and Mstislav Dobuzhinsky. In 1909, Narbut continued some of his studies in Munich, in the school of Simon Hollósy. After his return to Saint Petersburg he joined the organization Mir iskusstva. In 1910-1912 Narbut was an illustrator of the fairy tales Hans Christian Andersen, the fables of Ivan Krylov, and folk tales.
After the February 1917 revolution Narbut returned to Ukraine and was appointed professor of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts, becoming its rector in February 1918. He laid the foundations for advanced art education in Ukraine and fostered the rebirth of the national style of Ukrainian art together with other contemporary Ukrainian artists, such as Vasyl Krychevsky.
During this time he created his Ukrainian banknotes, postage stamps and charters for the newly created Ukrainian National Republic.He created covers and graphics for post-revolutionary books and journals; graphic designs for the currency, postage stamps, seals and charters of the Ukrainian People’s Republic; and bookplates, drawings and illustrations incorporating Cossack, Ukrainian baroque, and folk motifs. One of his finest works after 1917 is considered to be his gouache frontispiece for a 1919 edition of Ivan Kotliarevsky’s Eneïda (Aeneid). Narbut also worked on the Ukrainian magazines: Nashe Mynule (Our past), Zori (Stars), and Sontse Truda (The Sun of Work) among others. He died of typhus in 1920.
Books about Heorhiy Narbut:
- Heorhiy Narbut. Catalogue. Kharkiv, 1926.
- Volodymyr Sichynsky. Narbut. Lviv-Krakow, 1943.
- Heorhiy Narbut in Kharkiv Art Museum collection. Kharkiv, 1973.
- Heorhiy Narbut. Album. Kyiv, Mistectvo, 1983.
- Platon Beleckiy. Heorhiy Narbut. Leningrad, Iskusstvo, 1985.