Tretchikoff, Vladimir (1913 – 2006)

Vladimir Tretchikoff was born in Petropavlovsk, Russia, now known as Petropavl, Kazakhstan. He was

one of the most commercially successful artists of all time. His painting “Chinese Girl” is one of the best

selling prints ever. His prints were so popular that it is believed that Tretchikoff was second only to

Picasso in popularity.

He was a self-taught artist who painted realistic figures, portraits, still life and animals, with the subjects

often inspired by his early life in China and Malaysia, and later life in South Africa. Although his work was

immensely popular with the general public many art critics referred to his work as kitsch, thus earning

him the nickname, The King of Kitsch.

He became famous in South Africa thanks to a book that collected his portraitsof Oriental women

and pictures of flowers. He also held successful exhibitions in Cape Town and Johannesburg. His fame

spread to the United States, where the Rosicrucians of San Jose invited him to launch an American tour.

Around 19,000 people saw his show in Los Angeles and 51,000 in San Francisco. In Seattle, a rival show

which included Picasso and Rothko sold fewer tickets, to Tretchikoff’s satisfaction. A million Americans

finally saw his paintings, which then went on to Canada with equal success. This was followed by a large

exhibition in 1961 at Harrods in London where he decided that the Harrods Art Gallery was too small.

He requested and was granted the privilege of having his exhibition in the ground floor exhibition space.

About 205,000 people attended the exhibition.

In 2002 Tretchikoff suffered a stroke that left him unable to paint, and he died in 2006 in Cape Town, his

home since 1946.


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