Born in the family of a naval officer. In 1905-1913 he studied at the Academy of fine arts (in particular, D. N. Kardovsky), became friends in the years with V. I. Shukhaev, who became like his creative alter ego.
Collaborated in the journals "Satyricon" and "New Satyricon" (1909-1918).Was a member of the "World of art" (from 1912).
In 1913, together with Shukhaev visited in Spain, 1914-1915 traveled to Italy. In 1917-1919 visited Mongolia, China, and Japan. C 1920 lived in France. In addition to painting and teaching (among other things, 1934-1937 taught in Boston), was engaged in book illustration.
A. E. Yakovlev was the son of a naval officer. He received his artistic education in St. Petersburg Academy of arts (1905-13), in the Studio of D. N. Kardovsky, pay special attention to the training pattern. Even then, Yakovlev became interested in drawing and began working in the art magazines of those years as a graphic artist. His drawings appeared in "Apollo", he drew a lot for the "Satyricon" and then for "New Satyricon" and "Fields".
The artist before, since 1909, began to participate in exhibitions. His large group portrait of "Academic dacha", shown at the Baltic exhibition in 1912 in Malmo (Sweden), received positive response A. N. Benoit.
In the academic years struck up a close friendship and creative collaboration with Yakovlev and V. I. Shukhaev; contemporaries jokingly referred to them by the artist-twins.
Passing in the student's period of temporary fascination with impressionism, Yakovlev turned for inspiration to classical art. His competition work "bathing" and "bath" (both 1913) showed the orientation of the young artist in the art of the old masters. They have identified his attraction to "Neoclassicism". For those of Yakovlev was awarded the title of artist and pensioner's trip abroad. 1913-15. he spent in Italy, where he studied old painting. Then traveled to Spain, on the island of Mallorca.
Along with a huge number of field studies the artist executed in Italy a self-portrait in the image of harlequin, which became part of the double self-portrait Shuhaeva and Yakovlev. This painting, the artists considered one of the greatest of his works. Yakovlev portrayed himself in theatrical makeup and colorful costume, invented by the artist N. N. Sapunov. The theatrical portrait is the best fit tools from the Arsenal of old art: the exact figure, almost sculptural modeling of the form, local color, some primitive, coming from the Russian lubok. Elements of the stylization, imitation of the masters of the Italian Renaissance or the art of the primitive is visible in other works of the artist, for example in the painting "the Fiddler" (1915).
This and some of the work created in Italy, Yakovlev showed at the exhibition "World of art" on his return to Petrograd in 1915, They caused a flurry of a variety of assessments. Advice AH, in particular, have not accepted the paintings. In the second half of the 1910s, Yakovlev was engaged in portrait painting and drawing reached great success in the technique of sanguine drawing. Among the most significant works of this period are "Portrait Casarosa (the artist's wife)" (1916) and "self-Portrait" (1917), graphic portraits of F. I. Shalyapin, N. E. Radlov.At the same time, the artist tried himself in monumental-decorative art. Some of his projects (painting a Church in Bari, the Kazan station in Moscow) remained unfulfilled. Together with V. I. Shukhaev he painted the ceiling in the mansion Firsanov in Moscow; along with B. D. Grigoriev and S. Sudeikin designed the artistic cabaret "Halt comedians" in Petrograd.
Engaged in Yakovlev and teaching: he taught at the women's architectural courses, as well as New art Studio and the Institute of art history.
In 1917, along with Kardovsky, Shukhaev and radiovym was the initiator of the "Guild of painters of St. Luke."
In the summer of 1917 Yakovlev as a pensioner AH went to Mongolia, China and Japan. The journey took two years and resulted in a series of works about China. Subsequently, the artist settled in Paris, and his life passed abroad.
Yakovlev was always attracted to the exotic. In 1924-25. he participated in the expedition in North and Central Africa, organized by the company "Citroen". Brought from paintings and drawings brought Yakovlev resounding success.
In 1926 he was awarded the Legion of honor. In 1931-32, the artist returned with the expedition in the country East, visited Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Mongolia and China. And again the result of his trip was a series of art works, mainly of ethnographic character, but always marked by virtuoso technique of the drawing.
In the 1920s Yakovlev's work was frequently exhibited in Europe and America, his art was a great success, although it remained controversial. Not tried and the connection of the artist with Russia in 1928 the exhibition of his works was held in the halls of Academy.
Yakovlev engaged in easel painting and graphics, monumental and theatrical-decorative art. In 1934 Yakovlev received an invitation to take the place of the Professor of Academy of fine arts in Boston. Until 1938 he lived in the United States. Yakovlev died in a Paris hospital after an unsuccessful operation.