Incredible Tretchikoff

Life of an Artist and Adventurer

Boris Gorelik

‘Engaging … gripping … more than a biography’ — Independent (SA)
‘Fascinating story of an outsider … excellent’ — The Witness (SA)
‘Full of facts’ — Sunday Times (SA)
‘Gorelik has produced a book that gathers together a wealth of information, raising interesting points on many quite contentious issues’ — De Arte
‘Enthralling … highly recommended’ — Historical Novel Society
‘This book is highly recommended’ — Dimitri Tretchikoff

Vladimir Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl is one of the most famous images of all time. Known as the ‘Green Lady’, it has been reproduced countless times, appearing everywhere from mugs and T-shirts to pop videos and blockbuster films. Tretchikoff lived a life as colourful as his instantly recognizable paintings. Born to a deeply religious Siberian family, he fought poverty, tragedy, captivity and near death to become one of the most celebrated artists of his time. Loathed by the critics yet loved by the public, he defied misfortune and a dismissive art establishment to enjoy phenomenal success in Britain, South Africa, Canada and the United States.

Coinciding with the centenary of his birth, Incredible Tretchikoff tells the enthralling story of this flamboyant artist from his humble beginnings to the spectacular highs and lows of his later career. We hear thrilling accounts of his early years as a Russian orphan in Manchuria and his efforts to make his way as a young man in a strange land. In Singapore in the 1930s, he was accepted into the social elite and his art became talk of the town. Meanwhile, he secretly worked for the British Ministry of Information producing anti-Axis propaganda. But his high living was brought to an abrupt end by the war. He was nearly killed when the Japanese sank the boat on which he was trying to escape; taken prisoner, he was forced to use his artistic skills for the enemy. Accused by his captors of being a spy, he somehow survived, and was eventually reunited with his wife and daughter in Cape Town after the war. Within years, through sheer determination and despite the hostility of the local art community, Tretchikoff had become South Africa’s best-selling artist and his fame had spread across the globe.

With the pace and suspense of a novel, Incredible Tretchikoff matches the drama of its subject’s extraordinary life. It reveals the adventures that lie behind his most famous pictures, while presenting recently uncovered information and previously unseen photographs. This fascinating and gripping book is a fitting record of one of the most popular and controversial painters of the twentieth century.

Boris Gorelik is a writer and researcher based in Moscow.


What others say

‘Gorelik’s publication is relevant and timeous.… [He] has produced a book that gathers together a wealth of information, raising interesting points on many quite contentious issues.… One of [its] merits is that Gorelik … contextualises the times and the climate in which Tretchikoff worked and exhibited, both locally and internationally. What emerges … is the remarkable impact of Tretchikoff’s work the world over.’ — De Arte

Incredible Tretchikoff has the combination of a good story and a compelling trek through questions of aesthetics and popularity, contrasts that sit remarkably easily together. Most important, it reads extremely well.’ — William Feaver, critic and author of Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, and Pitmen Painters

‘Tretchikoff gets a long overdue reassessment in this book by Boris Gorelik. He has unearthed many previously unseen works by the artist so often considered the epitome of kitsch. Here his development can be traced via early political cartoons, advertising work, sketches and book jackets in a deco/modernist style, through to the famous prints and right up to date with his continuing influence on a new generation of illustrators and artists. This is, undoubtedly, the definitive biography. Indispensable.’ — Rian Hughes, illustrator, author of Lifestyle Illustration of the 50s

‘If you are fortunate enough to possess a work by Vladimir Tretchikoff, print or original, and would like to learn more about it, I can heartily recommend Boris Gorelik’s biography. At Bonhams, we are the world leader in handling his paintings and Incredible Tretchikoff has become a trustworthy research tool.’ — Giles Peppiatt, director of South African Art and Modern and Contemporary African Art, Bonhams, London