Though better known for his portraits, Valentin Serov (1865-1911) illustrated the animal fables of Ivan Krylov with expressive line drawings.
In "The Monkey and Her Glasses," an older monkey with poor eyesight buys some eyeglasses. Unfortunately, she doesn't know how to wear them. Since she can't see better, she breaks them in anger.
In "The Quartet," a bear, a goat, and donkey, and a monkey decide to play music as a string quartet. Having no luck at playing the instruments, they keep trading instruments, but still they can't make a good sound. Finally a musically inclined nightingale appears to remind them that you can't play music without skill and talent.
It's interesting to see how a great portrait painter explores gesture and character in loose line drawings that blend the real with the imaginary.
In the book Valentin Serov, Dmitri Sarabyanov says: "This combining of the imaginary with the real was something Serov always tried to achieve, whether in his portraits or drawings for Krylov's fables or historical themes."
Some of Serov's later paintings explore mythological themes such as "Rape of Europa" (left), where his stylization departs from naturalism and becomes more expressionistic.
According to the Ancient History Encyclopedia: "Europa was charmed by the docile animal and decorated him in flowers. Then, thinking she might ride such a gentle beast, she climbed on his back. The bull swam with her into the sea, soared into the air and carried Europa far away from Phoenicia."
Book: Valentin Serov: Paintings, Graphic Works, Stage Designs
Wikipedia: Valentin Serov