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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