Vladimir Tretchikoff Dies at 92

The artist that painted the best selling art print of all time recently passed away. I hadn’t noticed it until a reader (Irv) pointed out an article in the New York Times.
Vladimir Tretchikoff painted the popular “Chinese Girl”, also known as the “Green Lady” or the “Blue Lady” in 1950. Throughout the 1960s and 70s his prints hung in many living rooms worldwide.

Vladimir Tretchikoff - Chinese Girl

The Green Lady made the “king of kitsch” (a nickname he hated) a commercial hit, allowing him to travel the world during his life time, but art critics never took him seriously.

“The Russian-born South African artist Tretchikoff toured the world on the back of his painting’s popularity. He generated controversy in interviews, exhibited his work in department stores and became one of the first artists to target the “ordinary” public as the true audience for his work.” BBC

The article in the NY Times says..
“If sales are a yardstick, then Mr. Tretchikoff was a Leonardo, and his most popular painting was, as Ms. Mercorio (his daughter) often says, his Mona Lisa.”

Popularity can make an artist like Andy Warhol seem cool, or it can make an artist like Thomas Kinkade seem very uncool. It makes me think about branding and how a brand is marketed.
If art museums started throwing out their Warhols and replaced them with works by Vladimir Tretchikoff, would it change the way people think about the artists?

Vladimir Griegorovich Tretchikoff
December 13, 1913 – August 26, 2006

About Dion

Australian artist and observer of things.. all kinds of things. I like a wide variety of art, from the weird and wonderful to the bold and beautiful.. and everything in between.


  1. Looks like he was the Andy Warhol of his day. Sold a bunch of paintings, made a bunch of money and gave the people what they wanted.

  2. This is a very interesting question. I wrote something this winter on this topic and now I am inspired to find it and post it. The basic idea is that the nature of the museum-gallery system makes it difficult for a popular artist to be recognized as a great artist. The reason is that if ordinary people could decide what “art” is, it would threaten the authority of the people who now have that power.

  3. Found it… What is Art?

  4. The difference between Tretchikoff and Warhol does not lie in money made and popularity enjoyed. It is that Warhol changed how art looks, is perceived and consumed by the world. Tretchikoff gave the world something done quite competently, but with a style already known and understood. Even if we were to separate genres and look at Tretchikoff as a twentieth century realist, he did not change the way we look at anything, including home decor. As far as Mr. Zipser’s contention that the museum/gallery system prevents “ordinary” people from determining contemporary taste, I would say this: The current guardians and caretakers of art and it’s appraisal are more likely to appreciate art of any period in the context of an ongoing history than people who perhaps have never studied art, it’s manufacture and reception in the world. If I have a medical problem, I will go to a doctor, if I have a plumbing problem, I will seek out a plumber etc. Without a doubt, that same museum/gallery system has it’s problems such as commercial galleries having perhaps too much control and influence over academic institutions where, presumably, market value of a work of art is not how we determine it’s aesthetic worth. Keep in mind however, a public perfectly prepared to ignore the abilities of thousands of performers in deference to the questionable talent found on “American Idol” would, no doubt, have the same effect on visual art. No, thank you. I seriously doubt that fear of losing their authority and power is the motivation for the behaviour of any museum or gallery.

  5. I’ll have to agree with the last anonymous.

  6. It’s all about money and power. Poor people lack power thats why they go and watch football instead of Opera but it’s Opera that gets the government funding and football gets nothing. It’s the same with art. Most of us are relatively poor but we like good paintings. Rich people already houses full of nice things but they inflict piles of bricks, Tracy Emins knickers, Damiens dead fish, and other assorted tosh on the rest of us using our taxes to pay for it. Thats why you often see rich people laughing a lot. They are laughing at us plebs.

  7. Such bitterness! I’m poor and I don’t think my taxes have anything to do with how much and what kind of art rich people buy. Without the money of Pope Julius II, any of the Medici, Louis XIV-XVI, Napoleon, Peggy Guggenheim, etc. there would scarcely be any art history. During the Renaissance, no artist painted to please himself. Paper was expensive and some colors wouldn’t be bought without a financial advance. I am an American painter working in what is basically a traditional style and, no surprise, have never received a grant or fellowship. However, rich people sometimes make endowments and scholarships, etc. No matter how much of the art that gets funded is not to my taste, I’m glad that even art I don’t like gets funded. I am also the long winded anonymous above.

    Lighten up Earl. No one is laughing at you.

Speak Your Mind