28 March 2015

A 3d attempt

Chief of Ndebele

For the third year in a row, Stephan Welz & Co is trying to sell this Tretchikoff painting. The auction is taking place in Johannesburg on 21 April.

This time, the estimate is R600,000-R900,000 (£33,000-50,000).

As far as Tretchikoff's 'exotic' portraits are concerned, this is a bargain. But it's one of those cases when reproductions improve on the original. This painting from the early 1970s is not one of Tretchikoff's better works.

17 March 2015

Tretchikoff for £8,000? It's a bargain!

Portrait of a young woman

You didn't get Tretchikoff's Zulu Maiden yesterday at the Cape Town auction? Then buy a female portait of his tomorrow (18 March) at Bonhams, London.

Portrait of a young woman
signed 'TRETCHIKOFF' (lower right)
oil on canvas laid to board
66 x 56cm (26 x 22 1/16in).

The estimate is £8,000 - 10,000 (R150,000 - 180,000)

More information

16 March 2015

Tretchikoff is up for grabs!

Zulu Maiden

This painting goes on sale tonight at Cape Town. The estimate is £103,000-120,000

Never exhibited in the lifetime of the artist, this painting has a special place in Tretchikoff’s arsenal of stories about himself.

In September 1954, after the highly successful tour of the US, Tretchikoff arrived in Toronto. He held a show at Eaton’s, a Canadian social institution. This chain of department stores had once been known as the largest retail organisation in the British Empire.

Nearly 52,000 visitors attended his exhibition at ‘Canada’s Greatest Store’. Eaton’s hung Tretchikoff’s work in the foyer of the auditorium that hosted stars like Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra.

One day, a stocky, broad-shouldered old man entered the foyer. He moved from picture to picture, hardly ever slowing his pace. The Eaton’s directors watched him in awe.

The old man was Jack Hammell, a mining magnate who had ‘cracked open the north’. He pioneered the large-scale mineral exploration of Canada’s remotest regions. His aeroplanes moved people and materials to the areas that could only be reached by dogsled or canoe before. Canadian Airlines is a direct descendant of Hammell’s fleet. A former boxer, this powerful man was feared by many. But he had a soft spot for the arts. It is said that Hammell owned works by Titian, Rembrandt and Gainsborough.

Hammell bought several paintings by Tretchikoff at the Toronto show, including two portraits, a Zulu and a Sotho woman. Since the Canadian tour was far from over, he agreed to receive his purchases later. But when they eventually arrived, Hammell claimed that they were not the ones he had acquired.

Although Tretchikoff insisted that they were correct, in order to appease the ‘big bully’, he flew to Toronto. He took with him his new work — a study of a Zulu woman set against the background of a zebra skin. Tretchikoff proposed exchanging it for the two paintings in question.

When the painter showed the canvas, Hammell liked it so much that he returned the two works to Tretchikoff and kept the new painting. They parted the best of friends.

On the next morning, Hammell bought the two paintings back from Tretchikoff.

Jack Hammell died childless in 1958. His wife survived him by two years. It is not known who inherited his extensive art collection. One of the few works that has resurfaced is Zulu Maiden.

In 1999 the sale of this painting by Stephan Welz — also in Cape Town — marked the revival of interest in Tretchikoff. The painting was knocked down for an amount that exceeded the initial estimate sevenfold.

Tretchikoff completed this painting in 1956, during his golden decade. It was in the fifties that he produced such mass-market masterpieces as the Chinese GirlLady from OrientMiss Wong and Balinese Girl.

The Zulu Maiden is Tretchikoff’s typical ‘exotic’ portrait. In his oeuvre, it is this kind of painting that is most sought after. And, unlike his pictures of Oriental women, it is purely South African in its subject matter.
Lot 573
Vladimir Griegorovich Tretchikoff (SOUTH AFRICAN 1913-2006)
Zulu Maiden
signed and dated 56
oil on canvas
75 by 85,5cm
Sold: Sotheby's, Johannesburg, 27 April, 1982, lot 219, with the title African Woman, in front of a zebra skin
Exhibition Details:
Iziko South African National Gallery, Cape Town, Tretchikoff: The People's Painter, 26 May to 25 September 2011, catalogue number 42.
Boris Gorelik. (2013) Incredible Tretchikoff, Cape Town: Tafelberg. Page 177.
Vladimir Tretchikoff and Anthony Hocking. (1973) Pigeon’s Luck, London: Collins. Pages 238-40 [unnamed].
Important South African & International Art, Decorative Arts & Jewellery
Monday 16 March 2015
Venue: The Vineyard Hotel, Newlands, Cape Town

08 January 2015

A 'Green Lady' of Hampshire

© Kingsley Nebechi
I've just come across this take on Tretchi's 'Green Lady' by Kingsley Nebechi.

Now, let me tell you that most attempts to create a 21st century version of Tretchikoff's mass-market masterpiece result in abomination. Just search for 'inspired by the Chinese Girl' pictures on the Internet.

But Nebechi, a graphic designer and Illustrator from Southsea, has created something wonderful. Those who don't agree can 'go jump in the lake', as Tretchikoff used to say.

28 November 2014

Vox populi

Incredible Tretchikoff has the combination of a good story and a compelling trek through questions of aesthetics and popularity, contrasts that sit remarkably easily together. Most important, it reads extremely well.
William Feaver, author of Pitmen Painters; biographer of Lucian Freud

Get the book here while it's available

06 May 2014

Blast from the past

You might remember my post about this 1960s shirt. It was sold at I was Lord Kitchener's Valet, a legendary shop of the Carnaby Street era.

Well, Sean still has one of these shirts. Here is what he writes:

'It's printed in green ink on what was once white but has now aged into a beige color. My father bought it at the store in 68 or 67, I think. It hung in the back of his closet for years until I saw it and wanted it. Now it hangs in the back of mine. I haven't had occasion to wear it in a while.'

The shirts were produced illegally, that is without the artist's permission. In 1970, Tretchikoff sued the shop and won the case.

Maybe it's time for Tretchikoff Project, the official manufacturers of the artist's merchandise to bring out a new 'edition' of it? Just for old times' sake...

Tretchikoff's Birth of Venus (c 1955)

Many thanks to Sean for sharing photos of his prized possession.

01 April 2014

Come see the penny whistlers Tretchikoff painted!

Robert Sithole. By Günther Komnick
The boy in the black-in-white photo is Robert Sithole, one of the Kwela Kids (1958). 

Penny Whistlers. By Vladimir Tretchikoff

You can also see him and his Cape Town band in Tretchikoff's Penny Whistlers, which was painted around the same time.

Now, you can see this marvellous photo and many others at Günther Komnick's show at Bellville, Cape Town.

Komnick took those images in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when he walked the streets with his camera and captured the daily lives of people living in the Bo-Kaap, District Six and central Cape Town.

Accompanying the exhibition is Günther Komnick’s coffee table book on the same subject.
Cape Town Memories of the ‘60s

Exhibition dates: Sat 22 March – Wed 16 April
Venue: art.b Gallery, Bellville Library Centre, Carel van Aswegen Street, Bellville