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Category Archives: Art

Abstract Composition- 193?

Abstract Composition-1932

Abstract Composition

Mikhail Mikhailovich Tarkhanov, (Михаил Михайлoвич Тарханов, 1888-1962) was born in Ukraine.
When thinking of the art of the Soviet Union it is easy to focus on Social(ist) Realism and The Constructivists. In the early days, however, the avant garde flourished, particularly at Vkhutemas ( Вхутемас: Высшие художественно-технические мастерские), the institute in Moscow at which Tarkhanov studied.
V.I Lenin admitted that abstractions in art weren’t really his thing, and doubted the ideological soundness of such work, ‘but what do I know?’ he quipped, ‘I’m an old man’. Later regimes though, were less tolerant of this perceived decadence, and in the 1930s Tarkhanov, whilst producing officially sanctioned graphic designs , privately developed his style of abstract composition, which he called Picturesque-Textured Improvisations.

Vasili Kirillovich Nechitailo (Василий Кириллович Нечитайло) was born near Rostov-on-Don, in 1915. He was an academically grounded painter, studying at the Surikov Institute. During The Great Patriotic War (1941-45) Nechitailo was amongst the artists evacuated to Samarkand, (now Uzbekistan) – far away from any danger from the advancing Germans. The rationale for this was that the Soviet Government considered these young artists to be ‘cultural assets’ and desired to protect them from possible harm. Returning to Moscow when the tide of war turned in the favour of The Soviets, Nechitailo eventually graduated in 1944. It was only then that he began to exhibit. Following this 13 years of formal artistic training he himself later embarked on an 8 year career as a teacher at the Surikov Institute. Nechitailo died in Moscow in 1980.
Rather than inexpertly write about Nechitailo’s style I’ll just let this selection of paintings speak for themselves.

Study of a Man (1949)

Lubotchka the Postlady (1958-1959)

Girl with an apple (195?)

Team Leader (1965)

Blue Shadows(1976)

I don’t know much about the life of Robert Ivanovich Sturua (1916-198?). From the Georgian SSR, he is now more commonly referred to as Robert Sturua Snr, as his son of the same name is a distinguished theatre director.

Portrait of a Spouse(1946)

Elene (1960)

Plastov, Arkady Alexandrovich(Аркадий Александрович Пластов 1893 – 1972) was a Social Realist painter of the Soviet Union.
Plastov was born near Simbirsk (the birthplace of V.I Lenin that now bears his birthnam
e- Ulyanovsk). His family were traditionally icon painters. Plastov studied in Moscow from 1914-1917 and then returned to his home village.
During the Soviet era there was a strict adherence to social(ist) realism, and Plastov’s work is a great example of this artistic doctrine. He documented the building of socialism- the development of the kolkhoz collective farming system and the era of the five year plan . His work also showed the effects of The Great Patriotic War on the people of rural Russia.
Spring (Весна) was painted in 1954. The painting is considered a turning point in the history of Soviet art, marking a departure from socialist realism, reflecting the political relaxation in the Soviet Union under Nikita Khrushchev, an era which came to be known as the Khrushchev Thaw.

Here’s something that I had not noticed before.
I recently watched
Performance (1970) by Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg- one of my favourite movies. In the scene where Moody and Rosenbloom are in Tony Farell’s bedroom we see Chinese Girl by Vladimir Tretchikoff…


This is not he only time, of course, that Tretchikoff has featured in movies. Here are two other notable examples:


As Charles Darwent wrote in The Independent newspaper’s obituary of Tretchikoff in September 2006:
A Tretchikoff had only to appear over Bob Rusk’s chimneypiece in Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972) for the audience to know that Rusk was odd; the Green Lady on the wall of Alfie’s Ruby in 1966 marked her out as irredeemably modern.
As a maker of cultural artefacts, if not of art, Tretchikoff was a master.


Based on Tretchikoff’s enduring popularity I’m guessing that there must be literally hundreds of other such examples of his work appearing in movies or TV, either as signifiers as shown by Darwent or nowadays as a shorthand for retro kitschism.

Here’s a gorgeous change from our usual Brazilian music…

Tous les garçons et les filles is the debut LP of the French singer Françoise Hardy, initially released in November 1962 when she was 18 years old.
Like many of Hardy’s earlier albums, it was released with no title, except for her name on the cover, but has become known by the title of the most successful song on the album,
Tous les garçons et les filles.
On its belated release in the USA the LP was given the swingin’ title
The “Yeh-Yeh” Girl From Paris!

(Incidentally- in Joao Kartoshka’s opinion Françoise is one of the most beautiful women of all time).
Here also is a portrait of Françoise painted by Tretchikoff:

Tretchikoff met Françoise Hardy when she was touring South Africa, and realised that she was an ideal model for a subject that he had long wanted to paint. Tretchikoff said of this picture:
It was inspired by the knowledge that there is a rainy day in every young girl’s life, a day when she feels insecure, imprisoned within herself, and the world seems wet and bleak…


Express your passion, do whatever you love, take action, no matter what– Tretchikoff
What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? -Van Gogh

Why the one is considered an absolute genius and the other The King of Kitsch?
One never sold a painting in his lifetime whilst the other made a fortune from his work…
What are the relative merits of these paintings?
My argument is: The people who involve themselves in art are by nature romantically inclined. They become seduced by a tragic story such as that of Van Gogh- his life blighted by some mental infirmity or neurological disorder. His determination to produce art in which no one else saw any merit, his unrequited love…we wish to see ourselves in stories. So the cult grows and it becomes a case of the emperor’s new clothes.

Very little is known of the British artist JH Lynch (1911 –1989). He was renowned for his popular paintings of sultry women. Probably his most famous work is Tina (1964).
I remember seeing Tina in many living rooms in the 1960’s and 1970’s, or maybe similar pictures for which this has become a default memory image.
Lynch’s work appears in this scene from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.

Everything here is pretty cool, but I’m not sure about the mother’s dress.

On Vladimir Tretchikoff (Владимир Григорьевич Третчиков) (1913 –2006):

He achieved everything that Andy Warhol stated he wanted to do but could never achieve because of his coolness. Wayne Hemingway in his book Just Above The Mantelpiece.

You put a brick in the Tate today and it’s art. Who decided that the Green Lady is kitsch? Not the hundreds of thousands who bought it. Uri Geller

Who are the arbiters of taste? The old cliché stands- I dunno much about art but I know what I like. I don’t apply any postmodern ironies to my admiration of the artists that I’m going to cover on these pages. I think they are good pictures, and that they were created by talented artists.
Tretchikoff was one of the most commercially successful artists of all time. He once said that the only difference between himself and Van Gogh was that he had become rich whereas Van Gogh had starved.
Chinese Girl (often called Green Lady) was painted in 1950.