Iakov Georgievich Chernikhov was born on December 17, 1889 in Pavlograd, Ekaterinoslav province (in the present-day Ukraine). In 1904 he left Pavlograd for Odessa and entered the Odessa Art School, which was affiliated to the Saint- Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts.
The Odessa period was for the future master an important formative stage of his creative personality. His teachers at the school included G. Ladyzhensky and K. Kostandi, the leading artists of the Southern Russian school at the time.
"I decided to go my own way I had charted for myself ."