Undoubtedly Vladimir Tretchikoff’s most iconic work, the Chinese Girl remains the most widely reproduced and recognisable of his oeuvre. The highest-selling art print in history, in the 1950s and ’60s the Chinese Girl captured all the attention across the globe.
The painting is of a Chinese girl and is best known for the unusual skin tone used for her face.
The deftly-handled golden hues and decorative detail of her tunic emerge from the lines of charcoal on brown canvas. Notably, the combination of lustrous golden silk and the blue-sheen of the model’s skin combine to produce an otherworldly glow. As a result, a luminescence that is the leitmotif of Tretchikoff’s best works.
The work is inspired by the sitter, Monika Sing-Lee, 17. She was spotted by Tretchikoff while working in her uncle’s launderette in Sea Point, Cape Town. The painting is Tretchikoff’s second variation on the theme. The first (using a different model) was destroyed in a robbery at the artist’s studio in South Africa.
The print is hand numbered and accompanied by a certificate signed by the Master Printer and bearing a matching number to the print.
Born in Siberia in 1913, Vladimir Tretchikoff was one of the most commercially-successful artists of all time; believed to have earned more during his lifetime than any painter other than Picasso.
He fled with his wealthy family from the Russian Revolution in North China. Tretchikoff later moved to Singapore, where he held a variety of interesting jobs. One of them was working as a propaganda artist for the British Ministry of Information in 1941. This gave him the opportunity to paint many famous personalities of the day.
At the end of the war, Tretchikoff and his wife resettled in Cape Town, South Africa. His portraits of oriental women brought him enormous popular acclaim around the world.
Due to living in Shanghai and Singapore, the influence of the exotic can be seen in most of Tretchikoff’s work. His figure studies generally featured members of African tribes or oriental women. He was also fascinated with oriental flowers which he imbued through the use of dramatic composition.
Vladimir Tretchikoff remained based in South Africa, where he died in August 2006.