Entertainment & Arts

Chinese Girl portrait goes to auction

Chinese Girl, Vladimir Tretchikoff
Image caption Seventeen-year-old Monika Sing-Lee was the inspiration for the painting

Vladimir Tretchikoff's original painting of the Chinese Girl, believed to be the world's most reproduced print, is to go on sale in London.

The Russian artist, who died in 2006, claimed that by the end of his career he had sold half a million large-format reproductions of the print worldwide.

The portrait of a young Chinese girl with distinctive green-hued skin and ruby lips could fetch up to £500,000.

The painting will form part of Bonhams' South African art sale on 20 March.

Tretchikoff, who grew up in Russia and Shanghai, eventually settled in South Africa in 1946 and painted the Chinese Girl in Cape Town in 1952.

His model was Monika Sing-Lee, then 17, whom he spotted working at her uncle's launderette in Sea Point, Cape Town.

'King of Kitsch'

According to Tretchikoff's biographer Boris Gorelik, the image - also known as the Green Lady - went on to become "one of the most important pop culture icons in Britain and the Commonwealth in the 1950s".

Its popularity led to Tretchikoff being called the "king of kitsch" - a moniker he hated, insisting he was a serious artist.

The painting was bought directly from the artist by a woman in Chicago when Tretchikoff was touring the US in the 1950s. It has remained in the same family for the past 60 years.

"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," said Giles Peppiatt, director of South African Art at Bonhams.

The work will be exhibited in New York and Johannesburg prior to its sale.

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