Already a well-known figure in St. Petersburg, linked to the Russian ballet and to the worlds of theatre and music, the young Russian artist, Aleksandr Iakovlev, arrived in Paris in 1920 after spending two years in China, Mongolia and Japan. The exhibition of his works executed in the Far East at the gallery Barbazanges was a great success, which was confirmed by the publication of his Dessins et peintures d'Extrhme-Orient with the publisher Lucien Vogel.
Having become, at the request of Andri Citrokn, the official painter of the 'Citrokn Centre Afrique' Expedition (known afterwards as the Croisihre Noire), Iakovlev crossed the African continent from North to South between 1924-25, driving through the Sahara, Sudan, Niger, Chad, the Belgian Congo, Mozambique and Madagascar. After his return in 1926, Iakovlev exhibited hundreds of his drawings and canvases at the Pavillion de Marsan, the Louvre and the Galerie Charpentier.
When not traveling, Iakovlev spent numerous summers in the south of France with close friends, including the artist Vasilii Shukhaev. Usually he stayed on the island of Port-Cros but Iakovlev is also known to have stayed in Cassis, a mere twenty kilometers from Marseilles on the Mediterranean coast.
Renowned as a portraitist and ethnographical draftsman, Iakovlev's landscapes are rare and distinguished by their stylization and intensity of colour. For a comparison, see Christie's, London, 30 November 2005, lot 129A, View of Zinder, Niger. In 'View of Cassis, France' Iakovlev accentuates the lush vegetation of the hillside in summer by using a subtle palette of greens in the same way that he captures the warmth of the African sun by using gradations of terracotta and ochre in View of Zinder, Niger. The graphic precision of Iakovlev's style appears to lend itself to dramatic landscapes, with the limestone cliffs of the calanque, cross-hatched by faults and cracks, providing as exotic a view as any of Iakovlev's African scenes.