Tretchikoff was one of the biggest-selling painters ever. Born in Siberia in 1913 his family were scattered across the globe four years later during the Russian Revolution and would never be reunited.
He immigrated to China, was orphaned at 11 but went on to become a professional artist at 13. After moving to Singapore he held his first exhibition, aged 20, became a propaganda artist for British Intelligence and was duly imprisoned in Java.
Here he developed an affinity for warm colours and exotic subject matter, but when he eventually settled in South Africa his work was belittled and heavily criticized in the press for providing what one newspaper referred to as “cheap sensation for the masses.”
Having lived in Shanghai and Singapore, the influence of the Far East and a fascination with the exotic can be seen in most of Tretchikoff’s work. His figure studies generally feature members of African tribes or oriental women and he has always been fascinated with oriental flowers, such as magnolias, which he imbues with an emotional charge through the use of dramatic composition and stark colour schemes.
Tretchikoff also used unconventional techniques in his work, such as combining brush and palette knife to lend his paintings more weight. Not unlike the Beatles, he globally tuned into peoples’ artistic senses.