• Denholm Hewlett

[Art/Culture] Vladimir Tretchikoff (1913-2006)

The Russian born "painter of the people" who spent most of his life as a popular artistic outsider in South Africa and became one of the most successful and widely re-produced artists in the world.


Self Portrait - Vladimir Tretchikoff

Vladimir Tretchikoff was born in 1913 in Petropavlovsk, Siberia, Russia [now in Kazakhstan] and passed away in 2006 in Cape Town, South Africa. A popular self taught maverick painter whose pioneering outlook, unrelenting spirit, intuitive originally and vibrantly garnish artistic style earned him the nickname as the "the king of kitsch", while others prefer comparing his artwork to Andy Warhol's. As an artist, Tretchikoff is best recognised for his painting Chinese Girl (1952), also known as The Green Lady, one of the best selling prints of the twentieth century.



Although Trecthikoff did spend his early years living in China, the famous portrait of Chinese Girl was painted in Cape Town and is among the most recognised of his paintings. The image depicts a elegant and graceful Asian woman dressed in exotic robes. The model for this iconic painting was a member of a small Chinese community in Cape Town. With this image, Trecthikoff masterfully captured her pensive expression and divine beauty, and chose to paint her skin a shade of otherworldly bluish green. Lithographs of this painting can be seen in all corners of the world today.


In the wake of the Russian revolution of 1917, Tretchikoff and his family escaped from Petropavlovsk and eventually found harbour in Harbin, China. He spent the most of the 1930's based in Shanghai, working in the advertising industry and was also contributing his graphic artwork to various magazines and newspapers. Tretchikoff's life would be uprooted once again after he was forced to evacuate during the 1942 invasion of Singapore by the Japanese army. The boat that he and around 300 others were escaping on was attacked and sunk by Japanese military ships while in the dense open sea. Tretchikoff and the few survivors were forced to row for 21 days until they reached Java, where they became interned prisoners by Japanese forces. After a few months he was eventually released and spent the rest of WW2 in Batavia (Jakarta), devoting himself to painting.


Tretchikoff first moved to South Africa in 1946 and launched his first exhibition two years after his arrival. The artist's early paintings focused on capturing vivid and otherworldly portraits of women and floral still life's, both subjects would become predominant focus points throughout his artistic career. This pioneering artist always considered his portraiture work to be a form of "symbolic realism". Despite failing to find much appreciation amongst the rigidly established art world, Vladimir Tretchikoff's own burning self-determination and unwavering desire to paint spurred him on to boldly exhibit his work in unorthodox public locations over the next three decades. He preferred to showcase his paintings in local department stores instead of the major art galleries. After tireless years of self-promotion and burning determination, Tretchikoff would eventually manage to have his diverse art work exhibited in galleries all over the globe and his legacy has been well preserved. The mass re-production and global distribution of his paintings has made Tretchikoff one of the most recognised artists in the world.


~ Please enjoy a gallery of our favourite Tretchikoff paintings ~



~ Psychic Garden

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