Low Brow Classic Expected to Fetch High Price at Upcoming London Auction, IMG Cred: Chris Osburn

The Famous Chinese Girl Piece!


London auction house, Bonhams, is set to sell the original painting of the world’s most reproduced fine art print, Chinese Girl by South African artist, Vladimir Tretchikoff. Also commonly known as the Green Lady, this iconic work will be sold on the 20th of March during Bonham’s South African art sale and is expected to fetch between £300,000 and £500,000.

Inspired by the sitter Monika Sing-Lee, who was working at her uncle’s launderette in Sea Point, Cape Town when Tretchikoff noticed her and asked if she’d model for him, the painting went on to become what is believed to be the most widely reproduced and recognizable picture in the world. Chinese Girl is famed for its exotic quality and has long puzzled its millions of admirers with the blueish green hue of the subject’s skin.

The original painting was bought directly from Tretchikoff by an American woman in Chicago when the artist toured in the 1950s and has been in the same family ever since. Bonhams is selling the painting on the behalf of the original buyer’s granddaughter.

Due to the popularity of the image, Tretchikoff became known as the King of Kitsch, a title he came to resent always insisting his body of work was more serious than that. However the Russian émigré to South Africa took pride in the fact that by the end of his career he’d sold half a million large format reproductions of the Chinese Girl print worldwide.

Says Giles Peppiatt, Director of South African Art at Bonhams, about the piece:

The iridescent hues of ‘Chinese Girl’ reflect Tretchikoff’s experimentation with the possibilities of his color 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.

Bonhams London is located at 101 New Bond Street, W1S 1SR. The auction house’s South African Sale, including “A focus on William Kentridge” is March 20th. For more information and details on how and when to view Chinese Girl visit bonhams.com.

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photo: Chris Osburn

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