Vladimir Grigoryevich Tretchikoff was one of the most commercially successful artists of the 20th century. Self-taught, his work was popular with the general public but was often seen by art critics as the epitome of kitsch.
His famous Chinese Girl (1952), a painting featuring Eastern model, Monika Pon-su-san with blue-green skin, is one of the best selling prints of the all time. Although Vladimir Tretchikoff spent his early years in China, this portrait was painted in Cape Town. The model was a member of the small Chinese community. While working at her uncle’s laundromat in Cape Town‚ Monika Pon-Su-San never thought that her life would forever change when a Russian artist asked her to sit down so that he could paint her portrait in 1952. Pon-Su-San died in Johannesburg on 14 June 2017.
The painting gained popularity after renowned artist Vladimir Tretchikoff sold it to a woman in Chicago in 1953. It is distinct for the blue‚ green and copper shades used in the skin tone. So popular was the painting that it featured‚ amongst others‚ in David Bowie’s The Stars Are Out Tonight music video‚ in a Don Paterson poem God’s Gift To Women‚ The White Stripes music video Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground and Alfred’s Hitchcock’s film Frenzy.
The original sold for £982,050 at Bonhams auction house in London on 20 March 2013. It was purchased by British jeweller Laurence Graff. It has been on public display at Delaire Graff Estate near Stellenbosch, South Africa since 30 November 2013.
Possibly the best known of all Tretchikoff’s paintings. Lithographs of this painting can be seen in all corners of the world.
Courtesy of The Tretchikoff Foundation