Vladimir Igorevich Yakovlev
Vladimir Igorevich Yakovlev was an unprecedented non-conformist artist, a representative of unofficial art, whose work is entirely based on and ruled by emotions and feelings. The creations of this fascinating artist with a very tragic fate, filled with complex life circumstances, are difficult to categorise as his work stands out for its philosophical content and stylistic form against a clearly defined framework of artistic trends. One of his favourite media was gouache on paper. He also created watercolours that are less known to the inexperienced viewer. The line is as important to the artist as the colour: Yakovlev’s drawings are often created with only a few strokes. Occasionally Vladimir Igorevich’s works demonstrate a profound influence of Pablo Picasso’s creations (for instance, “Cat with a bird in his mouth”, 1973, the Museum “The Other Art”), but Yakovlev was a very versatile artist, and his sources of inspiration were numerous. He went through a period of fascination with non-objective painting or graphic abstraction, but some works of his mature artistic phase also can be attributed to the post-war avant-garde trend of “new figuration”. Vladimir Igorevich has painted mainly still lifes, among which are especially famous for his melancholic and mysterious “flowers”, and portraits, imbued with spiritual expression. Without appropriate education or experience, Yakovlev very quickly joined the circle of Moscow most elite avant-garde artists, which was a great challenge on its own, considering how hard it was for a young artist to get into that environment successfully. He participated in all significant exhibitions of unofficial art as equal to the most outstanding non-conformists of that time such as Kabakov, Grobman, Plavinsky, Yankilevsky, etc., who all later spoke very warmly about Vladimir Yakovlev. The artist was also friends with many famous poets of the 1960s, who dedicated their works to him.
The artist was born in the small town of Balakhna (Gorky region) on March 15, 1934 in a family of workers. Yakovlev’s family was so-called “returnees”, those who subsequently returned after the Revolution from the West to their homeland. His grandfather was a talented landscape painter Mikhail Yakovlev - a major figure in Russian Impressionism, and his grandmother, Feodosiya (originally Francoise) Yakovlev, was Belgian by nationality. Igor Mikhailovich, the father of Vladimir Yakovlev, was a graduate of the University of Brussels, majoring in engineering, and his mother, Vera Teitelbaum came from a merchant family that went bankrupt after the Revolution. The circumstances were such that in the time of the World War II and during the turmoil of evacuation Vladimir Yakovlev managed to finish only six classes of high school. After moving with his family to Moscow, in 1944 he worked as a courier in the publishing house “Art " and at the same time was visiting the studio of Vasily Sitnikov, where he studied retouching. The young man was released from military service because of serious health problems. In the 1950s Yakovlev worked as a retoucher photographer in the same publishing house where he had previously started as a courier. Thus, in general, the artist has developed his painting skills independently. Yakovlev has been extremely impressed by the works of the Western avant-garde artists, which were shown in the Central Park of Culture and Recreation during the VI World Festival of Youth and Students in 1957. This event has become a powerful revelation for many young Soviet artists hence this kind of art had been banned for quite a long time, and, as follows, this exhibition served as a groundbreaking discovery and immense inspirational moment for a new generation of artists. It was in the late 1950s when Vladimir Yakovlev turned to painting. His first official exhibition in the USSR was organised in 1963. It was a one-day exhibition in cooperation with Eduard Steinberg at the Museum of F. M. Dostoevsky. His next solo exhibition in conjunction with Steinberg took place at the Moscow Artists' Union in 1968. The Western public received the opportunity to see the artist’s work for the first time at the exhibition organised by the artist Mikhail Grobman in the gallery of Gmurzhinsk in Cologne in 1970, which was called “Russian avant-garde in today's Moscow”.
Since 1945, Vladimir Igorevich was under the care of psychiatrists and was treated in psychiatric hospitals, where, in fact, spent most of his life. As a result of severe illness in his youth, Yakovlev suffered from a progressive decline in vision, and the last thirty years of his life was almost blind, but still did not give up painting. Famous art critic Vitaly Patsyukov, who maintained a friendly relationship with the artist and visited him in the hospital, claimed that despite his illness, Vladimir Yakovlev did not lose creative integrity. He died alone in the No. 30 in Moscow on October 10, 1998, at the age of sixty-four years. Today, the artist's works are present in the collections of the State Tretyakov Gallery, the State Centre for Contemporary Art (Moscow), the Museum “The Other Art” (Moscow), the New Museum (St. Petersburg), the Chuvash State Art Museum (Cheboksary), the Museum of ART4 (Moscow), etc.
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