Press Office

Tretchi fever heats up

  15 May 2013     Archived

Controversial Russian born artist Vladimir Tretchikoff, nicknamed King of Kitsch, is top of the pops as auction prices for his paintings continue to soar, seemingly eclipsing the two long-time market leaders Pierneef and Stern.

Vladimir Tretchikoff, Balinese Girl

The value of his works has increased considerably following the retrospective exhibition hosted by the Iziko South African National Gallery in Cape Town in 2011, and regular appearances of his works at auctions both locally and abroad over recent years.

His famous portrait, The Chinese Girl, or Green Lady as she is popularly known, realised in excess of R13,5 million at an auction in London making headlines around the world, followed by his Portait of Lenca (Red Jacket) that sold for R4,9 million. Two weeks ago another work, Fruit Seller, sold for R 1 736 000 in South Africa, the South African record still standing at R3,4 million for Fruits of Bali established in 2008.

All attention is now on Strauss & Co’s autumn auction in Johannesburg next week at the Wanderers Club where four works by this artist are set to go under the hammer. Three are striking portraits of women, the artist’s favourite subject matter.

In his captivating portrait Alicia Markova, The Dying Swan, he depicts prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Markova entwined with the bird she portrayed, the two inseparable as she dies at the finale of Swan Lake. It was the result of months of work spent pursuing Alicia as she toured South Africa with the London Royal Ballet in 1949 and is estimated to fetch R800 000 – 1 200 000. He is said to have described Alicia Markova as a ‘most stimulating sitter’. The exotic and seductive Balinese Girl (Estimates R700 000 - 900 000) is depicted bathing naked in an emerald blue lagoon. It appears that the artist never visited Bali and that the sitters for all these Balinese portraits were, in fact, South African. This evocative work was probably painted in the late 1950s. Tretchikoff’s fearless approach to the use of colour is evident in Psychedelic Nude (Estimates R400 000 – 600 000). ‘the whole spectrum of the palette, streaming and whirling through his mind before he puts brush to canvas’.

In line with Russian folklore, Tretchikoff believed that the timely presence of a pigeon brought him good luck. He records in his autobiography that, during his life a pigeon appears at vital moments, catapulting him to international success. Perhaps, once again, Tretchikoff will be blessed with ‘Pigeon’s Luck’ at the Strauss & Co auction on Monday evening.

Lamprecht, Andrew, Tretchikoff, The People’s Painter: ‘Turning Eastward: Vladimir Tretchikoff’s Orient’, Ashraf Jamal, page 70

Media Liaison:
Bina Genovese / / 083 680 9944


Auction of South African & International Art
Monday 20 May 2013

The Wanderer’s Club, 21 North Street, Illovo, Johannesburg
On view three days prior
Enquiries & Catalogues: 011 728 8246 / 079 367 0637 /


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