Definitely firmly in the ‘kitsch vintage’ category (and likely to be sniffed at by any serious antique art collectors), the prints of Vladimir Tretchikoff’s paintings are undeniably enjoying a real revival.
My mother-in-law can remember Tretchikoff’s now-notorious prints being sold on the high street at Boot’s during the 1960s for ‘next to nothing’ and still cheerily considers them ‘common as muck’.
‘They were cheap prints for the new post-war middle class masses,’ she tells me. ‘They were popular at a time when people would borrow whole sets of framed art prints from their local library – like books – hang them on the walls for a few weeks, then borrow another set the next month.’
Tretchikoff’s famous blue-faced Chinese Girl was the best-selling print of the Twentieth Century and millions bought it. Earlier this year in March, the original painting of Chinese Girl fetched nearly £1,000,000 at Bonhams – twice the estimated price – and now even the once-common Tretchikoff prints are rarer, highly sought after and can sell for at least £150 a pop if they’re in their original frame.
Hipster fans of the late artist’s work include TV presenter Jamie Theakston (whose impressive collection of Tretchikoff prints caught my eye a few years ago when his home was featured in LivingEtc magazine) and fashion designer Wayne Hemingway who is now championing ‘popular art’ for a new generation by digitally-printing Tretchikoff’s Lady of the Orient print onto enormous wall murals via Surface View. He has a three metre wide version in his own living room.
‘Tretchikoff’s Lady of the Orient was on the wall above my Nan’s mantelpiece, and above the mantelpiece of tens of thousands of Nans,’ writes Hemingway on the Surface View blog. To him, the iconic image evokes: ‘…an era of innocence and exotica. Blown up, it’s timelessly cool.’
I have to say, I agree with him. I have a Chinese Girl print of my own, (picked up at an antiques fair) and yes, perhaps it’s a middle class cliché once more, but it definitely looks cool. Especially when it’s hung on a charcoal grey wall.