Tretchikoff: The People’s Painter

Being a thoroughbred Cape Townian, I was exposed to the frequent press that Vladimir Tretchikoff received through the 60’ to 80’s period. The awareness that we had a controversial artist living in our midst somehow made its impression upon me.

Vladimir Tretchikoff, Self-Portrait (1944/1950) Image via Iziko Museums, Photographer, Carina Beyer.

I always liked his work – despite having very little understanding and appreciation for art in my youth and early adulthood, his vivid imagery and sharp colours, always managed to capture my attention. I guess I was one of those ‘people out there’ towards whom he was directing his work.

Vladimir Tretchikoff, Chinese Girl (1952) Image via Iziko Museums, Photographer, Carina Beyer.

It almost seemed unfair that he was labelled “King of Kitsch” when he was taking his work to the people, by having exhibitions in the most unusual public places, such a department stores – locally and abroad.

Vladimir Tretchikoff, Portraits. Images via Tretchikoff Foundation

Well at a time when kitsch is no longer a swear word and when all that was previously considered kitsch has become trendy, being labelled “King of Kitsch” could actually have a positive spin for Tretchikoff as an artist, as opposed to the unnecessary undermining effect of the past.

The Vladimir Tretchikoff Exhibition at the IZIKO National Art Gallery in Cape Town. Image via Iziko Museums, Photographer, Carina Beyer.

When news of the exhibition hit my ears, I was determined to make my way to the Iziko National Art Gallery in the Cape Town Gardens. I wanted to experience the man as well as his original pieces.  I had an urge to de-mystify the artist.

Vladimir Tretchikoff, Melon Boy. Image via Tretchikoff Foundation
Vladimir Tretchikoff, Kwela Boy. Image via Tretchikoff Foundation

I was not disappointed at all – his vivid imagery and colours still did it for me.  Together with a brief encounter with the exhibition curator, Andrew Lamprecht and the many newspaper clippings, my appreciation for his work was re-kindled.  With one exception – that of the image series he painted to portray his take on the Ten Commandments – they did not do it for me. But viewed in the context of 90 odd images, it is but a minor.

Curator Andrew Lamprecht gestures at a press preview during a retrospective on Vladimir Tretchikoff on April 25, 2011 at the IZIKO National Gallery in Cape Town. Photo courtesy: AFP

To top it all, I actually discovered via a blog article written by his granddaughter, Natasha of the Tretchikoff Trust, that he embraced the same life philosophy as I do. To quote: “Life is about finding something you love doing so much that you don’t even notice time passing. SIMPLY DO WHAT YOU LOVE NO MATTER WHAT”.

Check out this excellent clip VISI compiled of the Exhibition.

 

His life’s journey as a local and international artist bore testimony to this philosophy. Despite all the challenges and opposition the People’s Artist experienced, he continued to do what he loved, making money while doing it and going on to become a legend of his time.

These famous flower prints where sold in the thousands.

I would urge you not to miss out on the opportunity that we have been afforded through this Tretchikoff Exhibition – go for your own reasons, but go!

TRETCHIKOFF: THE PEOPLE’S PAINTER
OPENS 26 MAY – 25 SEPTEMBER 2011
IZIKO South African National Gallery
Rooms 4,5,6 and the Liberman Room
 
For more Images and Info check out the following:
Tretchikoff Foundation Website
IZIKO National Gallery Facebook Page
 
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4 thoughts on “Tretchikoff: The People’s Painter

  1. I was lucky enough to view the exhibition with fresh unbiased eyes (as I am far too young to recall Tretchikoff’s critics…or the fact that every second “tannie” had a print). I didn’t even know he was considered kitsch until Rose told me. I love Tretchikoff’s bold use of colour – most of his paintings (especially the portraits) have mystery about them…whimsical yet dark. One thing is for sure, the prints don’t come close to the real deal – the colour, detail and texture (in particular the texture found in the flower paintings) are absolutely amazing.

    But for those of you who find it difficult to see past the “ou doos” Tretchi print your gran/mom had stuck up in their lounges, here is a nice contemporary interpretation…
    Contemporary usage of Tretchikoff's paintings in an Interior

    See! It can look amazing!

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