Mikhail Nikolaevich Yakovlev

Mikhail Nikolaevich Yakovlev

1880 —1942
Mikhail Yakovlev is a Russian impressionist, theatre and graphic artist, decorator, illustrator. Yakovlev often worked in the genre of landscape and still life. The artist's work happened to be at a turning point in Russian painting, which required changes, innovations, bold decisions and active search for new means of artistic expression. In his earlier works, Mikhail Nikolayevich has demonstrated an interest in Symbolism, and in the more mature period of his career, he has been increasingly fascinated by Impressionism, Art Nouveau and even Fauvism. Yakovlev was born December 14, 1880, in a small provincial town of Mikhailov, in the Ryazan province in a peasant family of old believers. His childhood and youth were not easy-going as he was forced to earn money for food and his schooling from an early age. He began his education at the Moscow Stroganov school in 1898, however, without finishing it, two years later he moved to Penza and applied to the Penza art school. The talented young man was accepted, and he studied under the guidance of the artist related to the Peredvizhniki artistic movement (The Wanderers), K. A. Savitsky until 1901. From a young age, Yakovlev was eager to draw landscapes from nature which is proved by his many student drawings. Then, the future artist, abruptly changed the situation again, leaving Penza and entering the Art School of Princess Tenisheva in St. Petersburg, where he studied with the great Ilya Repin and gifted Russian impressionist Dmitry Shcherbinovsky. Hard work and perseverance of the young artist are best demonstrated by the situation, when the head of the art studio, Repin, left the school, but Yakovlev with his classmates have organised their own studio, where they continued to study and develop their skills. Mikhail Nikolaevich has been particularly attracted to the views of Moscow, and he was enthusiastically and tirelessly painting one sketch after another depicting the city's appearance. Between 1905 and 1906, Yakovlev devoted much of his time to work in satirical magazines such as "Maski" (Masks), "Zritelj" (Spectator) and "Shershenj" (Hornet).

 For the first time, the artist took part in a major exhibition of the youth association "Venok" (Wreath) in St. Petersburg in 1908. The success of Mikhail Nikolayevich was increasing, and famous artists began to become interested in him. Yakovlev joined the Union of Russian artists in 1911 and has become a regular participant in community exhibitions. Mikhail Yakovlev's works were acquired by the Tretyakov gallery. Russian Museum and Literary and Artistic Circle. During the same period of his career, he actively participated in the design of theatrical performances. Mikhail Nikolaevich had quite innovative ideas about the theatre and took his part in the dramatic transformation that happened with the decorative art of the theatre at that time. He worked in the theatre called "Crooked Mirror", and then his artistic gift was noticed by Konstantin Korovin, who invited him to work in the Bolshoi theatre in Moscow. However, the artist has never abandoned easel painting and continued to create colourful, expressive works. After the October Revolution, Mikhail Nikolayevich was appointed a member of the Department for Museums and the Protection of Monuments of Art and Antiquities in The People's Commissariat of Education of the RSFSR. He has taken an active part in many social activities and was also a member of the art organisation "Isograf". Health failed the artist, and he desperately needed treatment abroad, where the government released him in 1923. Yakovlev emigrated to Leipzig, then moved to Munich, and then to Paris. He travelled extensively in France and Belgium, painting mainly impressionistic views of Flanders, Alsace, Lorraine, Antwerp, Bruges, Paris and its suburbs. Mikhail Nikolaevich experimented with techniques of tempera, watercolour, wooden sculpture. The artist was well received in Europe: his solo exhibitions were held in The Hague, Ghent, Antwerp, Brussels, Liege. He also exhibited his works at collective exhibitions of Russian artists. In 1926 he began to participate in the Salon des Independants In Paris. His talent as an illustrator is especially vividly presented in illustrations of 1936 when he created drawings for the" Tale of Tsar Saltan" by A. S. Pushkin and another series of drawings for Russian proverbs. Before returning to Moscow in 1937, Yakovlev had taken part in the design of the Palace of the Soviet Embassy in Paris, which undoubtedly served in favour of his return home. The artist's last lifetime solo exhibition happened in March 1941 in Moscow. After the war, Yakovlev was evacuated to Tbilisi, where he died in 1942. The posthumous exhibition of Mikhail Nikolayevich was held in the state art gallery of Georgia in May 1942. Mikhail Yakovlev's works are held in the collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Russian Museum and museums in other cities of Russia, including Arkhangelsk, Volgograd, Vladivostok, Tyumen.


Лапшин В. П. Художественная жизнь Москвы и Петрограда в 1917 году. М., 1983.

М. Н. Яковлев: Каталог выставки / Вступит. ст. Е. Е. Лансере, А. Тихомирова. М., 1941.

Северюхин, Д., Махров, К. and Лейкинд, О. (2011). Искусство и Архитектура Русского Зарубежья: ЯКОВЛЕВ Михаил Николаевич. [online] Available at:

Тихомиров А. М. Н. Яковлев (к персональной выставке) // Творчество. 1941. № 4. с. 18-19.