Serge Poliakoff

Serge Poliakoff was born in Moscow in 1900, into a family of fourteen children. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood in Imperial Russia. In 1917, the family's life was turned upside down by the Russian Revolution. The family dispersed and lost touch with each other. Serge Poliakoff never saw his mother again, with whom he had been so close. Until 1923 when he settled in Paris, he lived a life of exile. From Constantinople to Berlin via Vienna and Belgrade, Poliakoff travelled Europe with his aunt and uncle, surviving on music.


His first figurative canvases are full of the shapes and colours of his childhood, from Russian ballet dancers to the horses his father raised, and the luminosity of Orthodox icons. He first exhibited as a group at the Galerie Drouant in 1931. He attended the Slade School of Art in London before returning to Paris in 1937. In 1942 Serge Poliakoff met the Delaunay couple, who took him and Vassily Kandinsky under their wing. He had definitively abandoned figurative art, and his concept of colour, light and form were becoming more refined and precise. In 1945, Serge Poliakoff exhibited his abstract canvases for the first time at the Galerie de l'Esquisse.


Poliakoff's solo exhibitions multiplied, both in France and abroad. The 1960s finally brought comfort and recognition. In those years, Serge Poliakoff also lived to the full his passion for horse racing, which reminded him so much of his childhood, spent with a father who bred horses for the imperial army. Poliakoff's abstract paintings were exhibited in galleries and museums, but also in fashion shows: in 1965, Yves Saint Laurent presented a "Poliakoff dress". At the zenith of his career and his art, Serge Poliakoff died on 12 October 1969.


Serge Poliakoff dans son atelier, 1952 © Ministère de la Culture - Médiathèque du patrimoine et de la photographie, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais, Denise Colomb