He was born in Moscow on January 8 (20), 1900, in the family of the horse ranch owner. When a teenager, he used to draw and played the guitar. After the October Revolution of 1917, he moved to Tiphlis when he accompanied at the concerts of his aunt Nastya Polyakova who sang Russian and Tzigane songs. He performed with her in Constantinople, Sophia, Belgrade, Vienna and Berlin. In 1923, he settled down in Paris. He earned his living by playing the guitar and balalaika in Russian cabaret. He seriously engaged in fine arts after 1929; he studied in the Académie Frochot and Grande Chaumière, in particular, at O. Friesz. He continued artistic education in London where he lived in 1935-1836.
In the 1940’s, he became known as a painter. The beginning of Polyakov’s creative maturity coincides with the beginning of his “object-free” period. He was able to finally give up the salary of a pop musician in 1952 only – after he entered into the long-term contract with the Paris gallery of Bin. Having tried different avangard manners, mostly in the still life genre, he came to the unique style distinguished against the background of different types of abstractionism, which became the prevailing pictural fashion in the 1950’s. His pictures, with their contrasts of large, geometrically (but not strictly but softly and fancifully) outlined color areas, are reflected in the overall warm, reddish and yellowish, “golden” register (such are the nameless, as was his habit, “compositions” of 1954–1958 in the collection of the Municipal Museum of Modern Arts in Paris). They do not attract by psychological expression, but by the energy of stroke, the decorative “irradiation” of its colors. Giving the cardinal importance to the color, Polyakov seeks to create own colors, by specially preparing and mixing pigments and also by focusing on painted textures.
Besides painting, he frequently turned to gouache and colored lithograph; he used the collage technique. In 1957, he decorated the Counterpoint ballet by M. Constant in abstract manner (R. Petit team).
Oil on paper