Malyavin was born into a poor peasant family. As a young man he made the journey to Mouth Athos and subsequently trained as an icon painter. In 1891 Malyavin met Vladimir Beklemishev who was a professor at the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts. Malyavin was persuaded to enrol and he studied under Ilya Repin. In 1900 he travelled to Paris where he was profoundly influenced by the Impressionists but where, importantly, his own art was rapturously received. Malyavin returned to Russia but, following the Revolution, Malyavin and his family returned to live in Paris where he painted portraits and exhibited widely in Europe.