Pavel Tchelitchew

Born: 1898, Dubrovka (Kaluga Province)
Died: 1957, Frascati (near Rome)

Painter, graphic artist, theatrical designer, illustrator. Descended from Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (996–1002), whose great-grandson Prince William of Brunswick-Lüneburg arrived at the court of Prince Alexander Nevsky in Novgorod (1237) and fought at the Battle of the Ice (1242). Allegedly received the name of Tchelitchew after his great-great-grandson Mikhail Brenko saved the life of his uncle Dmitry Donskoi at the Battle of Kulikovo (1380), where he was killed by a blow to his forehead (tchelo in Russian). Born to hereditary landowner and professor of mathematics Fyodor Tchelitchew and his second wife Nadezhda at the family estate of Dubrovka in Kaluga Province (1898). Educated at home by German, French and English tutors and attended a children’s school of art in Moscow (from 1907). Studied medicine at Moscow University, secretly taking dancing and choreography lessons from Mikhail Mordkin and painting lessons from Adolf Milman and Ilya Mashkov (1917). Visited Konstantin Korovin’s studio at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and rejected his offer to collaborate on a new production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden (1917). Evicted from the family estate by the Bolsheviks and forced to move to Kiev (1918), where he studied under Adolf Milman, Isaac Rabinovich and Alexandra Exter and attended classes at the Ukrainian Academy of Arts (1918–19). Collaborated with Kliment Redko on decorating the streets and squares of Kiev with agitprop pictures and panels on Communist holidays (1919). Worked as a cartographer in General Anton Denikin’s White Army (1919) and decided to leave Russia after the execution of his two brothers by the Bolsheviks (1919). Escaped on a French cruiser sailing from Sebastopole to Istanbul (1920), where he earned money by decorating the interiors of cabaret bars and designing sets for the ballet companies of Victor Zimin and Boris Kniaseff (1920). Relocated to Bulgaria (1921), where he worked at the Sofia National Opera and designed the cover of Pierre Souvtchinsky’s Eurasian manifesto Exodus to the East (1921). Moved to Berlin (1921), where he worked for Yasha Yuzhny’s Der blaue Vogel (L’Oiseau bleu) cabaret bar and Boris Romanov’s Russische Romantische Theater (1922). Collaborated with Olga Tschechowa on Alfred Fekete’s silent movie Die Pagode (1922). Met American pianist Allen Tanner (1922) and moved with him to Paris (1923), where he rented a studio at 150 Boulevard du Montparnasse (1924). Frequented Gertrude Stein’s salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus and associated with Neo-Romantic artists Kristians Tonny, Christian Bérard and brothers Eugène and Leonid Berman (1925). Experimented with sand and ground coffee following a visit to North Africa (1927). Painted portraits of Serge Lifar (1926, 1928, 1929), Edith Sitwell (1927), Allen Tanner (1928), Gertrude Stein (1930), Princess Nathalie Paley (1932), Charles Henri Ford (1933), Helena Rubinstein (1934) and James Joyce (1937). Designed the cover of Edith Sitwell’s book The English Eccentrics (1933) and appeared as the character of Jonathan in her novel I Live Under a Black Sun (1937). Met American poet Charles Henri Ford (1932) and travelled with him to Italy, Spain and England (1934). Moved to New York (1934), where a visit to a freak show (1935) inspired the painting Phenomena (1936–38). Designed the decorations for the Paper Ball at the Hartford Festival (1936) and worked at Alice DeLamar’s house in Weston in Connecticut (1938). Returned to Paris (1939) and began painting Hide and Seek (1939). Moved to the United States following the outbreak of the Second World War and lived in New York (1939), where he opened a studio in his penthouse apartment on East 55th Street. Worked on Hide and Seek (1940–42) and illustrated View magazine (1940–47). Adopted American citizenship (1942). Painted a series of “internal landscapes” of the human body (1943–48). Visited Bermuda (1946) and moved to Italy, settling at Grottaferrata (1946) and Frascati (1950). Painted Inachevé (1954–57) and designed labels for bottles of Château Mouton Rothschild (1956). Died of a heart attack in Frascati and buried at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise in Paris (1957).

Designed the sets for performances of Lope de Vega’s play Fuenteovejuna at the Second Lenin Drama Theatre of the Ukrainian SSR (former Nikolai Solovtsov Theatre) in Kiev (1919), Sidney Jones and Ivan Caryll’s operetta The Geisha in Kiev (1919, not staged), six ballets performed by Victor Zimin’s company in Berlin (1921), Boris Romanov’s ballet The Boyar’s Wedding Feast for the Russische Romantische Theater in Berlin (1922), Comte Joseph Arthur de Gobineau’s play Savonarola at the Theater in der Königgrätzer Straße in Berlin (1923), Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Le Coq d’or at the Staatsoper in Berlin (1923), Leonide Massine’s ballets Ode at the Théâtre Sarah Bernhardt in Paris (1928) and Nobilissima Visione for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1938), George Balanchine’s ballets Errante at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris (1933), Magic for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (1936), Orfeo ed Euridice at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (1937), Mozart Violin Concerto, Apollon Musagète and Balustrade at the New York City Ballet and Ballet del Teatro de Colón in Buenos Aires (1940) and The Cave of Sleep (1941, not staged) and Jean Giraudoux’s play Ondine at the Théâtre de l’Athénée in Paris (1939).

Contributed to exhibitions (from 1922). Contributed to exhibitions at the Galerie Alfred Flechtheim in Berlin (1922), Galerie Henri in Paris (1924), Salon d’Automne in Paris (1925), Neo-Romantics at the Galerie Druet in Paris (1926), La nouvelle génération at the Galerie Jacques Bonjean in Paris (1932), Clowns at the Galerie des Quatre Chemins in Paris (1932), Tchisla at the Galerie La Renaissance and Galerie L’Époque in Paris (1932), Ballets Russes de Diaghilev 1909 à 1929 at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris (1939) and Artists in Exile at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York (1942). One-man shows at the Galerie Henri in Paris (1923), Galerie Pierre in Paris (1927, 1928, 1929), Claridge Gallery in London (1928), Galerie Vignon in Paris (1928, 1931), Museum of Modern Art in New York (1930, 1942), Galerie Balzac in Paris (1931), Esther Surrey Gallery in The Hague (1932), Salon d’Art Contemporain in Antwerp (1933), Arthur Tooth and Sons in London (1933, 1935, 1938), Julien Levy Gallery in New York (1934, 1935, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1942), Arts Club of Chicago (1935, 1938), Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford (1935, 1951), Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton (1937), Vassar College Art Gallery in Poughkeepsie (1937, 1943), Galerie René Drouin in Paris (1939), Galerie des Quatre Chemins in Paris (1939, 1940), Durlacher Brothers Gallery in New York (1942, 1945, 1948, 1951), Museo de Arte Moderno in Buenos Aires (1949), Hanover Gallery in London (1949, 1954), Galleria dell’Obelisco in Rome (1950, 1954, 1955), John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota (1951), Detroit Institute of Arts (1952), Worth Avenue Gallery in Palm Beach (1952), Galerie Rive Gauche in Paris (1954, 1956), Galleria del Naviglio in Milan (1955), Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels (1956), Gallery of Modern Art in New York (1964), Alpine Club in London (1972, 1974), Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York (1991, 1993), Midtown Payson Galleries in New York (1994), Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah (1998), Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma in Norman (2002) and the Natalia Kournikova Gallery in Moscow (2006, 2011).

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