NEW YORK—'Chinese Girl', the most iconic work of Vladimir Tretchikoff – the Russian émigré who settled in South Africa – will be sold at Bonhams South African art sale on 20th March 2013 for an estimated £300,000 to £500,000. 'Chinese Girl' will preview at Bonhams New York from February 9-12.
Said to be the most widely reproduced and recognisable 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, Mignon Buhler 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.
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.
In their obituary to Tretchikoff (who died in 2006), the BBC confirmed that the 'Chinese Girl' was indeed the highest-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."
Giles Peppiatt, Director of South African Art at Bonhams, comments: "The iridescent hues of 'Chinese Girl' reflect Tretchikoff's experimentation with the possibilities of his colour palette: the green-blue patina-like effect of the sitter's face is uncanny, heightening the red of her lips and framed by her lustrous dark hair. The deftly- handled golden hues and decorative detail of her tunic emerge from the lines of charcoal on brown canvas, a combination of media familiar from works like 'Basotho Girl' and 'Zulu Maiden'. Notably, the combination of lustrous golden silk and the blue-sheen of the model's skin combine to produce an otherworldly glow: a luminescence that is the leitmotif of Tretchikoff's best works."
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. Sing-Lee's daughter will join Bonhams New York to view the 'Chinese Girl' on February 11.
More information and a full catalogue will be available in the coming weeks at www.bonhams.com/auctions/20617/
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com