Vladimir Tretchikoff, 93; Painter Was Known as ‘the King of Kitsch’

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Vladimir Tretchikoff, 93, a painter whose popular prints earned him the nickname “the king of kitsch,” died Saturday at a nursing home in Cape Town, South Africa, his daughter said. He had been in frail health for several years.

His most famous work, “The Chinese Girl” -- a portrait of a woman in Chinese dress notable for the bluish hue to her skin -- sold more than half a million copies.

His daughter, Mimi Mercorio, said the print wasn’t even the original “Chinese Girl.” The first copy was slashed after thieves broke into the artist’s studio in South Africa.

Later, on a visit to San Francisco, Tretchikoff spotted the daughter of a local restaurant owner and asked whether he could paint her, and she became the famous “Chinese Girl,” Mercorio recalled.


Tretchikoff had large followings in the United States and Britain, but despite his success in the 1960s and 1970s, he often was called the “king of kitsch” by critics.

Born in Siberia, Tretchikoff lived through the Russian revolution and went on to work in Shanghai and Singapore. Captured by the Japanese in World War II, he was reunited with his family in 1946 and spent the rest of his life in South Africa.


Norman Hitchcock, a national billiard champion in 1973, died Thursday in Oklahoma City. He was 77.