His father was Finnish, a son of the piano factory owner. He was born in the Russian Empire and was christened as protestant. He studied commerce and took piano lessons. In 1886, his mother died. His teachers in the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture were Korovin and Pasternak. He was close to the Zolotoe Runo (Golden Fleece) magazine, he got acquainted and began to display his pictures together with Arkhipenko, the Burliuk brothers, Larionov and Goncharova. He and his wife moved to Paris in 1908. After that, the artist worked at Matisse’s studio (1908–1910). In 1910, he displayed his pictures in Moscow, together with the Knave of Diamonds group; in 1911, with Arkhipenko’s assistance, his works were presented in the Paris-based Salon d'Automne.
He focused on color and rhythm synthesis, tried to combine them with the cinema technique, by anticipating the creative search by Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling in abstract cinema and abstractionist searches in general. Since 1917, he shared the studio in Paris with Modigliani. His first personal exhibition took place in 1917, with Apolinaire’s support. He was under Shagal’s influence. In 1921, he took part in the collective exhibition entitled the Masters of Cubism. After 1922, he shifted from Cubism to Neo-Classicism. He cooperated with Diagilev’s Russian ballet, decorated the stage version of the Mavra opera by Stravinsky in Parisian Opera (1922). He partnered with Louis Jouvet. In 1927, he became a French national. He dealt with tapestry art, tissue painting, he worked for Chanel (1933). By the end of the 1930’s, he was in close contact with André Masson, and fantasy and allegoric motifs strengthened in his creative work. In 1937, he took part in decoration of the World Exhibition in Paris. In the 1950’s/1960’s, he was mostly engaged in monumental painting.