The Russian painter Serge Poliakoff, born in Moscow on 8 January 1900, is one of the most important members of the Ecole de Paris. He fled the Russian Revolution in 1917, first going to Constantinople and then to Paris in 1923, where he spent most years of his life.
He began studying painting while earning a living as a musician. He enrolled at the Académie Forchot and Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris 1929 and went to London in 1935 where he studied at the Slade School of Art. At first he produced variations of academic traditions and predominantly figurative motifs such as nudes, houses, trees etc.
After 1935 Serge Poliakoff increasingly turned towards abstract art, employing colour as colour without any figurative context. A decisive influence in this direction was Kandinsky, whom he met after his return to Paris. Sonia and Robert Delaunay taught him to appreciate the emotive quality of colour and awakened an interest in simultaneous contrasts.
Another important source of Serge Poliakoff's pictorial language was the sculptor Otto Freundlich with his curved colour-form compositions. Poliakoff developed a very individual form of abstract painting, arranging different coloured fields of colour next to one another. Shades of brown and grey were his preferred colours during the 1940s, while after the 1950s he extended his palette including bright contrasting tones.
In his late work Serge Poliakoff abandoned the polychrome palette and returned to earth tones and more monochrome works. Poliakoff's paintings were shown at international exhibitions during the 1950s and 1960s, after his nationalisation in France in 1962 the artist received his own room at the Biennale in Venice. Over the later years a number of lithographs, to which Poliakoff attended since 1962, as well as small format paintings were created, when the artist had to take care of himself after a heart attack in 1965.
Serge Poliakoff died in Paris on 12 October 1969.