Vladimir Yakovlev, The Double Portrait

The disadvantages of having no artistic training whatsoever, a serious mental illness, being visually impaired and living in ghastly circumstances seem to have contributed towards Vladimir Yakovlev's inimitable artistic style which was and still is widely admired. Yakovlev did not seem to notice the world around him, drawing inspiration for his perfect brushstrokes and dashes of colour from the very depths of his imagination, from his inner being. It seemed as if he were born with of a solid foundation of artistic sensibility and culture. Thus comments of of his friends, "I think that he never read a book or even asked anyone to read to him; we never talked about literature and I never saw him with a book in his hands. But he knew a lot, he as in no way a Philistine. In his mind, in his soul, a sediment of culture had somehow been assimilated into him. His conversation was remarkable for its structure and sonority and his way of speaking, proper to the Russian intelligentsia".

The inner culture of the artist, his distortion of perceived reality and the deeply dramatic aspect of his personality cannot be ignored when assessing the phenomenon of Yakovlev's painting. His portraits, often imaginary, have a unique form to them and one is struck by the nobility of the palette of colours. The colour-feeling, a colour that has been lived. As the artist himself half joked, "To understand the colour grey, you have to eat ashes," adding, "And God knows how often I have done so".

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