Vladimir Tretchikoff, artist

Vladimir Tretchikoff, artist

CAPE TOWN – Vladimir Tretchikoff, a painter whose popular prints earned him the nickname “the king of kitsch”, has died.

He was 93. Tretchikoff had been in frail health for years.Tretchikoff’s most famous work, ‘The Chinese Girl’ – a portrait of a woman in Chinese dress notable for the bluish hue to her skin – sold more than half a million copies and is believed to be one of the best-selling prints of all time.”I always called it my father’s ‘Mona Lisa’,” his daughter, Mimi Mercorio, told The Associated Press by telephone.”I never thought at the time it would become so famous, but it seemed to catch the public eye and they loved it.”She said the print, which achieved iconic status, wasn’t even the original ‘Chinese Girl’.The first copy was slashed after thieves broke into the artist’s studio in South Africa.Later, on a visit to San Francisco, Tretchikoff spotted the daughter of a local restaurant owner and asked if he could paint her, and she became the famous ‘Chinese Girl’, Mercorio recalled.Tretchikoff completed many other paintings – so many that Mercorio said she didn’t even know how many, although her mother kept a “couple of lists” of the titles.”There were hundreds,” she said.”He was a prolific painter.”His works were exhibited around the world, and Tretchikoff had large followings in the United States and Britain in particular.Even though he enjoyed huge popular appeal at the zenith of his success in the 1960s and 1970s, he often WAS called the “king of kitsch” by critics.It was a title he and his family despised.”He didn’t like it.It was a label that was dumped on him and it stuck.They abused it,” she said.”If you look at his works, you can’t call everything kitsch.”Born in Russia, Tretchikoff left his native country after the Communist revolution.He was in Singapore at the outbreak of World War II and was desperate to send his wife and young daughter to safety from the advancing Japanese army.”He packed a case, and put her on boat.He didn’t even know where she was going,” recalled Mercorio.He was captured by the Japanese and only managed to find his family in 1946, thanks to the Red Cross.”For six years we didn’t know if he was dead or alive,” Mercorio said.She was 8 at the time.Mercorio said she was certain her father’s war experiences influenced his paintings but that the family never discussed it.The family spent the rest of their lives in Cape Town, and Tretchikoff was often described as South Africa’s most popular artist.But, much to the family’s regret, the National Gallery in Cape Town always refused to display his works on the grounds that he was not South African.”He should actually be represented,” said Mercorio.”He was Russian-born but he was a very proud South African.”Nampa-APTretchikoff had been in frail health for years.Tretchikoff’s most famous work, ‘The Chinese Girl’ – a portrait of a woman in Chinese dress notable for the bluish hue to her skin – sold more than half a million copies and is believed to be one of the best-selling prints of all time.”I always called it my father’s ‘Mona Lisa’,” his daughter, Mimi Mercorio, told The Associated Press by telephone.”I never thought at the time it would become so famous, but it seemed to catch the public eye and they loved it.”She said the print, which achieved iconic status, wasn’t even the original ‘Chinese Girl’.The first copy was slashed after thieves broke into the artist’s studio in South Africa.Later, on a visit to San Francisco, Tretchikoff spotted the daughter of a local restaurant owner and asked if he could paint her, and she became the famous ‘Chinese Girl’, Mercorio recalled.Tretchikoff completed many other paintings – so many that Mercorio said she didn’t even know how many, although her mother kept a “couple of lists” of the titles.”There were hundreds,” she said.”He was a prolific painter.”His works were exhibited around the world, and Tretchikoff had large followings in the United States and Britain in particular.Even though he enjoyed huge popular appeal at the zenith of his success in the 1960s and 1970s, he often WAS called the “king of kitsch” by critics.It was a title he and his family despised.”He didn’t like it.It was a label that was dumped on him and it stuck.They abused it,” she said.”If you look at his works, you can’t call everything kitsch.”Born in Russia, Tretchikoff left his native country after the Communist revolution.He was in Singapore at the outbreak of World War II and was desperate to send his wife and young daughter to safety from the advancing Japanese army.”He packed a case, and put her on boat.He didn’t even know where she was going,” recalled Mercorio.He was captured by the Japanese and only managed to find his family in 1946, thanks to the Red Cross.”For six years we didn’t know if he was dead or alive,” Mercorio said.She was 8 at the time.Mercorio said she was certain her father’s war experiences influenced his paintings but that the family never discussed it.The family spent the rest of their lives in Cape Town, and Tretchikoff was often described as South Africa’s most popular artist.But, much to the family’s regret, the National Gallery in Cape Town always refused to display his works on the grounds that he was not South African.”He should actually be represented,” said Mercorio.”He was Russian-born but he was a very proud South African.”Nampa-AP

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