Born in Moscow in 1952, Vasily Kafanov was the son of a poet father and journalist mother and was raised in a one-room, multi-generational household typical of conditions during the country's dire housing shortage.
He first studied textile design at the Department of Applied Arts of the prestigious Moscow Technological Institute, receiving his degree in 1978.
In 1984, he was awarded a second degree in animation from the Ministry of Film.
Kafanov has had a distinguished career in Russia, becoming a member of the prestigious and world-renowned Artist Union. In spite of being a protégé of Marc Chagall, his work was largely unknown in the West until the late 1980s.
Today he resides in New York where he keeps working on his paintings.
Kafanov's favorite occupation is illustrating children's books, an activity held in high esteem in a society that places much greater emphasis on literature than does ours.
Since 1980, he has produced drawings for some 20 books (many, for some reason, Russian translations of works by Italian and Latin American authors}; since coming to the United States, Kafanov has contributed drawings to The New York Times and has illustrated a book for Simon & Schuster.
His love of illustration is always present in his works, which are often termed Chagallesque by more perceptive critics in the US and Europe on account of their fairytale nature, other-worldly moods, and obsession with the surreal, the mysterious, and the whimsical.
Even now, although Vasily style has evolved to become highly original and distinct, there are echoes of Chagall's themes and styles. Kafanov's scenes suggest faraway places and times: the barely defined landscapes and limitless skies recall the remote, shadowy realms of folk literature and fairy tales; his castles, thrones, churches, traveling minstrels, court jesters, kings and queens, and dancing harlequins recall the festivals and masquerades of medieval times. Or perhaps these places only exist in the imagination.