June 08, 2011
Tretchikoff: The People’s Painter at Iziko SA National Gallery
The Chinese Girl. Photos provided by the South African National Gallery
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the late Vladimir Tretchikoff’s artworks are truly priceless.
Currently showcased in an exhibition at the Iziko South African National Gallery in the Company’s Garden until September 25, 2011 the paintings are testament to the genius that was Tretchikoff.
The Russian-born artist made South Africa his home in 1946 and from the detailed floral paintings that he favoured in the 1940s to the exquisite The Chinese Girl portrait (the very popular portrait of an Oriental woman with blue-green skin) that he created in 1950, it is clear that Tretchikoff was an abundantly talented artist.
The exhibition features originals works by this renowned artist, who died in Cape Town in 2006, that have been borrowed from their owners who hail from all over the world.
Often described as one of South Africa’s most controversial artists, Tretchi, as he is fondly called, was the first to bring art appreciation to the working class masses. With his innovative idea to sell affordable copies of his masterpieces to the less fortunate, he earned his nickname “The People’s Painter”.
Certainly everyone deserves to own a Tretchikoff print. What truly captured my attention and imagination was the Ten Commandments set of paintings. His interpretation of these biblical instructions is fascinating and makes you stop to ponder what they mean to you.
Another of my favourites is the Body and Soul caricature that vividly portrays a young woman’s soul leaving her body and a mother figure sobbing beside her. It is equally beautiful and disturbing.
Tretchikoff’s later paintings were influenced by his arrival in Cape Town, after his imprisonment and eventual release from Java especially the Crawfish Seller and the Zulu Girl and Melon Boy in the African collection.
Most people will flock to this exhibition for the more famous Tretchikoff works of art like the Dying Swan, as they did when he exhibited his work all around the world in the 70s. To truly appreciate this genius’s legacy, though, you need to admire all of his work. Take your time to study each one and absorb the beauty.
Tretchikoff: The People’s Painter exhibition runs at the Iziko South African National Gallery until September 25, 2011.
The Dying Swan