(St. Petersburg 1887 - Paris 1938)
Portrait of a Black Man, South Carolina
Signed, inscribed and dated A. Iacovleff / Camden / 1935 at the lower centre.
660 x 487 mm. (26 x 19 1/4 in.)
In 1938, a number of other drawings of Black subjects in South Carolina – possibly counting the present sheet - were included in an exhibition of Yakovlev’s paintings and drawings at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. A review of that exhibition praised the ‘remarkable creative ability, an amazing productive power, great technical skill, incredible versatility as to style and the use of artistic medium, superb draftsmanship, and a cosmopolitan understanding, sympathy, and outlook’ of the works displayed, adding that ‘Iacovleff’s ability as a draftsman is best seen in his drawings, where with a few bold strokes of his pencil or crayon, he outlines a head, an arm, a body, or a piece of drapery.’
The present sheet was formerly in the possession of the artist’s younger sister, Alexandra Yakovleva (1889-1979), an opera singer who, with her mother, escaped Russia after the Revolution and settled with her brother in Paris. From 1949 until her death thirty years later, Yakovleva taught at the Conservatoire Russe Serge Rachmaninoff in Paris.
In 1924 Yakovlev was invited by the industrialist André Citröen to join ‘La Croisière Noire’ - a motorized expedition, sponsored by Citröen and led by Georges-Marie Haardt, to cross the African continent from Algeria to Madagascar – as its official artist. Between 1924 and 1925 the artist made hundreds of paintings and drawings of the people, animals and landscapes that the expedition encountered on its route, which were later developed into finished works in his studio in Paris. These were exhibited, to considerable critical acclaim, at the Galerie Jean Charpentier and the Pavillon de Marsan at the Louvre. In 1928 Yakovlev sent an exhibition of his work to Moscow, and three years later he joined a second Citröen expedition; the trans-Asiatic ‘La Croisière Jaune’ from Beirut to Peking. Departing in April 1931, the expedition crossed Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Himalayas and the Gobi Desert before arriving in Peking in February 1932. The artist’s painting and drawings from ‘La Croisière Jaune’ were again shown at the Galerie Jean Charpentier in Paris in 1933. The following year Yakovlev accepted a position as the director of the painting and drawing department of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he remained until 1937. Although exhibitions of his work were held in Washington, D.C., New York, Charleston and Pittsburgh, the artist missed Europe. Not long after his return to Paris, Yakovlev died of stomach cancer, a few weeks before his fifty-first birthday.
Acquired from her by a private collector in 1978
Private collection, Rhode Island.