A product of the Russian diaspora that followed the Bolshevik Revolution, Poliakoff (1900–1969) fled to the West, educating himself in the art schools and museums of London and Paris. He painted every day while raising a family, supporting this life by playing Russian folk songs on guitar in Parisian nightclubs late into the night. This hectic existence lasted well into his forties, when twenty years of foundational pictorial research finally came to fruition in a distinctive synthesis of painterly sensuality and ideational planarity.
Professional recognition increased his productivity and ambition resulting in a further twenty years (the remainder of his life) of paintings, gouaches, prints and related decorative projects that many consider the high-water mark of the “Nouvelle Ecole de Paris”.
Poliakoff's work is in numerous public collections, including the Kunstmuseum Bern, Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Musée national d’Art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Tate Gallery, London. In 2013 a major retrospective, ‘Le Rêve des Formes’ was at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The 2016 exhibition at Cheim & Read marks the artist's first solo exhibition in New York in thirty-five years.