Born in Siberia in 1913, Vladimir Tretchikoff is one of the most commercially-successful artists of all time.
He fled with his family from the Russian Revolution to North China and was orphaned there at the age of 11. He later moved to Singapore, where he held a variety of interesting jobs, including a spell 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. When the Japanese invaded Singapore, Tretchikoff escaped in an open boat which was then bombed and he drifted in the Java Sea for 23 days before being captured and held in Singapore until the end of the war.
The event which triggered his speedy rise to fame was the publishing of a book of his work in 1950. The book became a best-seller overnight and led to a hugely-successful exhibition, which toured North America and London.
Having lived in Shanghai and Singapore, the influence of the Far East and a fascination with the exotic can be seen in most of Tretchikoffs work. His figure studies generally feature members of African tribes or oriental women and he has always been fascinated with oriental flowers, such as magnolias, which he imbues with an emotional charge through the use of dramatic composition and stark colour schemes. Tretchikoff also used unconventional techniques in his work, such as combining brush and palette knife to lend his paintings more weight.
His work was so commercially successful, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s that it provoked extreme reactions. His famous subject Chinese Lady, featuring an eastern model viewed through a blue filter, is believed to be the best-selling commercial print of all time and is still used today to define the style and artwork of an entire generation.
Vladimir Tretchikoff is currently living in South Africa.
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