The Green Lady a painting considered a masterpiece of Kitsch by the Siberian/ South African artist Vladimir Tretchikoff was sold yesterday at Bonham’s for £982,050. This was nearly twice the estimate. It is thought that it was purchased by the billionaire jeweller Laurence Graff .
Said to be the most widely reproduced and recognizable picture in the world, from the 1950s prints of this famous work sold widely in South Africa, Britain, Europe and America. The picture was bought directly from Tretchikoff by an American woman in Chicago when he was touring the US in the 50’s. It has been in the same family ever since and is being sold by the original buyer’s granddaughter. The work will toured by Bonhams to New York and Johannesburg prior to its sale.
Tretchikoff himself claimed that by the end of his career he had sold half a million large-format reproductions of the ‘Chinese Girl’ print worldwide (and that doesn’t include smaller print versions): today you can also find mugs, wallpaper and assorted other Chinese Girl paraphernalia.
The ‘Chinese Girl’ was inspired by the sitter Monika Sing-Lee, who was working at her uncle’s launderette in Sea Point, Cape Town when Tretchikoff spotted her and asked her to model for him. Boris Gorelik, author of the forthcoming new book ‘Incredible Tretchikoff’ (due out in 2013), was the first researcher to trace Sing-Lee in 2010. He remarks on the unmistakable resonance between photographs of Sing- Lee in 1952, and the painting of the ‘Chinese Girl’.
In their obituary to Tretchikoff (who died in 2006), the BBC confirmed that the ‘Chinese Girl’ was indeed the biggest-selling print in history. Even as early as 1961, a BBC presenter made the following assertion (as related in Pigeon’s Luck, the artist’s life story): “Which painting do you think is the most famous in the world? Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’? Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’? Gainsborough’s ‘Blue Boy’?… Before you answer, let me tell you you’re wrong. It’s the green-faced ‘Chinese Girl’ by Tretchikoff.”
The Chinese Girl ( Green Lady ) makes a cameo appearance in the latest video by David Bowie titled ‘The Stars Are Out Tonight’ from his critically acclaimed album, The Next Day.
Photo: Tretchikoff The Green Lady Creative Commons