(b Petropavlovsk, Kazakhstan, 13 Dec. 1913; d Cape Town, 26 Aug. 2006).
Russian-born painter who settled in South Africa in 1946 and became a citizen of the country, one of the most financially successful but also one of the most critically reviled artists of the 20th century. Typically his pictures depict Oriental beauties (notably The Chinese Girl, 1952), African tribesmen and tribeswomen portrayed as the noble savage, or flowers: often he showed a single bloom, accompanied by tear-like drops of water and with titles such as The Weeping Rose. His enormous popular success depended not only on his choice and treatment of subject, but also on his skilful marketing. As well as showing extensively in South Africa, he organized several tours of his work in Britain, Canada, and the USA between 1953 and 1973 (the peak period of his fame), exhibiting in major department stores rather than galleries. The paintings themselves were generally not for sale, but reproductions of them sold in vast quantities. Tretchikoff has been the subject of several books and documentary films, including one for the BBC. To most critics, however, his work is excruciatingly vulgar, and he has been dubbed the ‘King of Kitsch’.