jaune » (1931-1932) dont fera également partie l’artiste russe. Bien qu’il se soit illustré dans de nombreux autres genres picturaux, les portraits ethnographiques d’Alexandre Iacovleff constituent sans conteste le sommet de sa production et participent au passage de son nom et de son art à la postérité.
The artist made a number of astonishing sketches, paintings, and drawings of documentary value, from genre scenes to ethnographic portraits, which were to procure him fame. Our drawing is one of these artistic testimonies created by Iacovleff during the Black Cruise. It exemplifies the masterful skill with which he seized model’s personality when portraying them in two dimensions. The artist distinctly displays his perfect ease with the various graphic techniques that he had learned under Kardovski, such as charcoal, as is used in our work. Besides creating a documentary, ethnographic piece, Iacovleff fully rendered the model’s psychology, along with a subtle interplay of light reflections on their skin through the use of fine texture and different tones of black. Once having returned from the expedition, the works made in the Black Cruise, including Odjo, were shown at the Louvre. The exhibition’s immense success lead to the publication of Lucien Vogel’s book ‘Drawings and Paintings of Africa: Sketches and Notes by Alexandre Iacovleff’ (Dessins et peintures d’Afrique, croquis et notes d’Alexandre Iacovleff, Jules Meynial, Paris, 1927). A second Asian exhibition was also organized, called ‘Mission Central Asia’ (Mission Centre Asia) or ‘Yellow Cruise’ (Croisière jaune) in 1931-32, in which the Russian artist also participated. While he acquired renown for several pictorial genres, Alexandre Iacovleff’s ethnographic portraits undoubtedly represent the summit of his art and contributed to ensuring the posterity of his art and name.
The Russian artist Alexandre Iacovleff, well-known for his portraits, was born in Saint Petersburg in 1887. After having studied in the studio of Dmitri Kardovski at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg, where he also frequented Kiplik’s atelier, he joined the artist movement Mir Iskousstva (“The World of Art”), born of a reaction to positivism in art and industrial society, and which introduced him to the world of spectacles. From 1913 to 1915, Iacovleff travelled first through Spain, then through Italy, before heading to China and Japan in 1971, where he prolifically produced paintings and drawings of everyday life and figures. After Iacovleff settled in Paris in 1920, Galerie Barbazanges exhibited works that he made in Asia, and the event was met with great success. As the official painter of the ‘Citroën Central African Expedition’ (Expédition Citroën Centre-Afrique) of 1924-25, this level achievement did not stand as foreign to Iacovleff. The Black Cruise, as it was commonly called, had been launched by André Citroën with an initially commercial purpose. It consisted of a car rallye over adverse terrain to prove the vehicles’ superior technology and unequalled performance. The project was meant to result in the creation of a series of regular automobiles to connect various African geographies. The Black Cruise soon became a politically and scientifically charged event, as conveyed by the establishing, in its aftermath, of a team of specialists and professionals of geography, cinema, medicine, and painting. Iacovleff was to hold a crucial role within this venture. The Minister of Fine Arts asked him to record on paper, along the rallye, the physical features, customs, attitudes, and traditions of indigenous peoples, some of whom were veering on extinction.
Iacovleff au Niger