After studying mathematics and physics, Vasily Yakovlev trained from 1914 to 1917 at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture under Abram Arkhipov (1862–1930) and Konstantin Korovin (1861–1939). Yakovlev’s study of the European old masters and Russian icon painting was bolstered by his role as a conservator for various institutes and museums in Moscow. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he visited Western Europe several times, including an extended sojourn in Italy at the invitation of Maxim Gorky (1869–1936) in 1932. A staunchly conservative artist, Yakovlev sought to couple the skill of Renaissance and Baroque painting with the ideological program of Soviet socialist realism. He produced many paintings, usually portraits, in a highly finished academic style throughout the 1930s and 1940s. During the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) Yakovlev visited the front to study military life, and in 1944 he created his iconic Portrait of Georgy Zhukov, Marshal of the Soviet Union. Yakovlev twice received the coveted Stalin Prize (1943 and 1949), and in 1944 he was bestowed with the title of People’s Artist of the RSFSR. In 1952 Yakovlev began work on his last significant project, supervising the restoration of The Siege of Sevastopol (1902–04) by Franz Roubaud (1856–1928).