Born in Russia, Serge Poliakoff
(Russian, 1990–1969) was a Paris-based painter associated with the European expressionist Taschisme
movement and the CoBrA group. Poliakoff fled his home city of Moscow during the Russian Revolution in 1917, and made his way from Constantinople to Paris over the course of six years, supporting himself by playing the guitar. In Paris, he attended the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, where he worked in a traditionally academic style.
On a 1935 trip to London, however, he encountered the abstractions of Egyptian art and, influenced by the work of Wassily Kandinsky
(1866–1944), Robert Delaunay
(1885–1941), and Otto Freundlich
(1878–1943), developed his own style of abstract painting featuring interlocking areas of color
. In the 1940s, his palette was confined to variegated shades of grey and black
, while in the 1950s, he expanded his selection to include bright colors
. By the 1960s, Poliakoff was an established painter and earned an entire room in the 1962 Venice Biennial. At the end of his life, he suffered health troubles, leading to the production of smaller scale paintings and lithographs. He died in Paris in 1969.