Saturday, May 16, 2015

Yakovlev's Citroën Expeditions


 Alexander Yakovlev (1887-1938) Mirza Dolik
One of the works in the upcoming Sotheby's auction of Russian pictures is this portrait by Alexander Yakovlev.

Portrait of Mirza Dolik (detail) 
The drawing is 20 x 14 inches, and it was drawn outdoors from life in 1931 using sanguine and pastel on paper. 


Alexander Yakovlev (also spelled Alexandre Iacovleff or Jacovleff) did the drawing as the official sketch artist of a motorized expedition across Asia.


The vehicle was a Citroën with a half-track in back. It drove across regions of the Asian continent that had no roads and very little petrol. Along the way the motor caravan overcame incredible obstacles, including warriors, mountain passes, and raging rivers.


Yakovlev was born and trained in Russia at the Imperial Academy of Arts under Kardovsky, and he lived later in France and America.

He was involved with two Citroën expeditions through Asia. The team traveled through Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia and China. He also went on an expedition through Africa, crossing the Sahara to Equatorial Africa.


His portraits bear the intensity of the encounters between cultures unfamiliar with each other. In many regions, his lifelike portraits provoked awe, and the people seeing such drawings being made regarded him as a form of conjurer.


Alexander Yakovlev Salek Ibn Mohamed 

sanguine and pastel on paper 29x21.5 in.

According to Sotheby's: "The clothes of the present sitter suggest that Salek Ibn Mahomed was a Baghdadi Kurd, a people whose proud and dignified air Yakovlev found very attractive and markedly different to the rather more simple appearance of the Kurdish nomads in the north. ‘If I hadn’t known that the Baghdadi Kurds who came to pose for me were just porters handling supplies for the expedition’ Yakovlev wrote, ‘I could easily have mistaken them for descendants of the princes of One Thousand and One Nights’"

Read More
Alexandre Jacovleff / Alexandre Yevgenievich Jacovleff on  Wikipedia
Sothebys "Russian Pictures," June 2 at Sothebys London
Exhibition catalog with essay
Read a French website about portfolios of these portraits.
Tate Gallery has one of his works
Book: Great Adventures With National Geographic: Exploring Land, Sea, and Sky
Print articles:
"From the Mediteranean to the Yellow Sea by Motor," by Maynard Owen Williams, National Geographic, November 1932 
"Through the Deserts and Jungles of Africa by Motor: Caterpillar Cars Make 15,000-Mile Trip from Algeria to Madagascar in Nine Months," by Georges-Marie Haardt, National Geographic, June 1926.
Related Posts on GJ:
Josep Tapiro's Ethnographic Portraits
Eugene Burnand's World War I Portraits

1 comment:

Roberto Quintana said...

Wow! That Citroën looks incredible. I need to add tank treads to my studio on wheels.
This post reminds me of this artist, Igor Savitsky, You might enjoy this documentary: ‘The Desert of Forbiden Art’ -RQ

http://itvs.org/films/desert-of-forbidden-art

“This incredible story of how a treasure trove of banned Soviet art worth millions of dollars was stashed in a far-off desert of Uzbekistan develops into a larger exploration of how art survives in times of oppression.
During the Soviet regime, a small group of artists remain true to their vision despite threats of torture, imprisonment, and death. Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky, a frustrated painter of aristocratic extraction who'd landed in Karakalpakstan (Uzbekistan's autonomous northwestern republic) as an archaeologist. He became fascinated by the region's folk art. Decades of Sovietization had devalued such distinctively ethnic artifacts to the point that collecting elaborate handmade garments, jewelry, carpets, and the like initially got Savitsky branded a "rubbish man." Yet he eventually obtained funds to open a museum in 1966 for those objects. Its location far from Moscow censorship also allowed him to pursue what became his real passion: finding and acquiring modern art so out of sync with official taste that it was virtually banned.”