Aleksandr Evgen
A Desert Fort
Aleksandr Evgen
Portrait of a Kirghiz
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Aleksandr Evgen'evich Yakovlev (St. Petersburg 1887 - Paris 1938)

Aleksandr Evgen'evich Yakovlev (Russian, 1887-1938) was a Russian painter, graphic artist and designer. His initial training in 1905–13 was at the Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg, where he studied principally under Dmitry Kardovsky. From 1909 Yakovlev contributed regularly to national and international exhibitions, and he was a member of both the World of Art group and the Union of Russian Artists. He was awarded an Academy scholarship for study in Italy and Spain in 1914–15, an experience that left an indelible mark on his stylistic evolution, as is clear from his recourse to Italian Renaissance devices and motifs in paintings such as his portrait of the Mexican artist Roberto Montenegro and The Violinist (both 1915; St Petersburg, Rus. Mus.)

Just before the October Revolution of 1917 Yakovlev and his close friend Vasily Shukhayev were regarded as the representatives of a new classicism in Russian art, and, in fact, the graphic clarity and materiality of their drawings and paintings bring to mind the contemporary poetry of Anna Akhmatova and Mikhail Kuzmin, leaders of the Acmeist movement. Yakovlev, Shukhayev, Grigor’yev, Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin and other graduates of the Academy of Arts moved in the same circles as these literati, frequenting the cabarets in St Petersburg and contributing to Sergey Makovsky’s review Apollon. Artistically and temperamentally, Yakovlev and Shukhayev were very close, and their red chalk and sanguine portraits and figure studies are often remarkably similar to each other. Their collaborative double portrait as Harlequin and Pierrot (1914; St Petersburg, Rus. Mus.) summarizes their mutual sympathy and respect.

In 1916 Yakovlev became a professor at the Institute of Art History in Petrograd (now St Petersburg), and, together with Grigor’yev and Sergey Sudeykin, he designed the interior of the Prival Komediantov (Comedians’ Halt) cabaret in Petrograd. After travelling in Mongolia, China and Japan he settled in Paris in 1920. He achieved his reputation in the West as an ethnographical draughtsman: in 1925 he accompanied the Citroën Central Africa Expedition as an official artist and in 1931 did the same for the Citroën Trans-Asiatic Expedition, collaborations that resulted in superb depictions of native types, rituals and scenes. Yakovlev spent three years as Chairman of the Department of Painting at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, and returned to Paris in 1937.