Apart from a successful exhibition at Harrods in 1961, Vladimir Tretchikoff (1913 – 2006) has little to do with London or its history. But this Russian painter did produce what has become possibly the best-selling poster of all time, The Chinese Girl (1952), aka the “Blue Lady”. The original painting of it can be seen in the foyer of Bonhams auctioneers right now. It will be auctioned in March.
Tretchikoff is known mainly for his cheesy paintings, very much looked down on by the art establishment and Western intelligentsia, though he is enjoying a sort of ironical cult status of late. I remember my parents’ friends having prints of his Dying Swan or the cut rose and water droplets on the stair. Reproductions like these sold in their tens of millions during the 20th Century, particularly in the Far East – and Tretchikoff cried all the way to the bank.
I made a special detour last week to Bonhams to see the Chinese Girl in the flesh. I don’t know where original Tretchikoffs lurk, but it felt good to see one. The estimate is £300,000 – 500,000. I bet it goes for more.
25 January: Ah, the Beeb have caught up.
Update: The painting fetched £982,050, the winning bid coming from a businessman based in South Africa, meaning that the painting will in a sense be returning home.
Update II: There’s a lovely postscript to this story about the model, who still lives in Cape Town, here.