Yuri Grachev was born in Moscow in 1937. In 1950 he was accepted to Moscow Art School – a preparatory school for the State Surikov Institute of Art. Several of Yuri’s teachers, such as Schorchev, Barsch and others, were students of great Russian 19th century masters, such as Korovin and Savitsky. Yuri’s study drawings were always singled out as exemplary, his drawing of Apollo Belvedere was hung in the school’s director’s office and put on the cover of Alexander Barsch’s book “Drawing in the Moscow Art School”. After a failed attempt to enroll into Surikov Institute, in 1957 Yuri was accepted to Moscow Textile Institute. In 1963 Yuri married Elizabeth Drozdovskaya, who had been enrolled in the same department. Soon after graduation Yuri returned to the Institute to teach drawing and painting. 1969-1976 he worked as an artist in an Industrial Complex of Applied Art in Moscow. Together with his wife, he made tapestries and theatre curtains commissioned by various state organizations. Following a successful exhibit in 1970, Yuri and Elizabeth were both admitted into Moscow Union of Artists in the Department of Applied Arts. Despite Yuri’s professional successes, all his achievements resulted from endless bureaucratic struggles with the Soviet system which drained his strength and creativity. His life was spent earning a living by making time-consuming hand-made tapestries commissioned by the State which required little artistic talent. Since he graduated from the Institute, Yuri had never been able to develop as a true artist and to draw with creative freedom. In 1977 he left the Soviet Union with his wife Elizabeth and daughter Maria.
The eight months the family spent in Rome waiting for a visa to the United States provided a great opportunity for them to see the original masterpieces of the great Italian painters. Spurred on by his experiences in Italy, Yuri dedicated the rest of his life to drawing and painting. 1978 Grachevs arrived to New York City. Starting soon after his arrival, and until 1984, Yuri worked as a textile designer for Burlington Industries. In 1979 he started creating charcoal drawings on paper, depicting New York beggars, vagabonds and street musicians. Over the next six years, working at night after his day job and on weekends, Yuri created over 700 drawings. 1986-1995 he worked as a scenic artist at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. The large scale of operatic sets influenced Yuri’s own work, he began concentrating on large oil paintings, slowly abandoning his previous medium, charcoals and pastels. Nevertheless, the theme of his works remained focused on inhabitants of New York. In 1995 Yuri was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He underwent major surgery in 1995 and again in 1999. In 2000 Yuri died at age 62 in his apartment in New York City.
Yuri Grachev is buried in Kensico cemetery near New York City.
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