Pavel Tchelitchew (Russian, 1957)

Known mainly for his painting and set design Pavel Tchelitchew (Russian, 1898–1957) spent his early years first studying art at the University of Moscow, from 1916 until 1918, and then at Kiev Academy until 1920. He also worked with Alexandra Exter in Kiev, and started working in theater in 1920, first in Odessa, then in Berlin. In 1923, he settled for a while in Paris where he cultivated a new style in his painting, resembling Surrealism but rooted in Russian Symbolism and his own brand of perspectival Cubism. He was involved in the avant-garde circle of Gertrude Stein, and in 1927, painted her portrait. In 1934, Tchelitchew moved to the United States. A series of paintings on the theme of the soul's journey to immortality occupied much of his oevre from the 1930s until his death. One of his most celebrated works is Hide and Seek (1940–1942)—in which the observer’s eye slowly adjusts from seeing a woman clinging to a tree, to children in the contours of the tree—exposes the similarity of forms and purpose between plants and humans. Tchelitchew delves deeper into the workings and forms of the body in his subsequent works, such as Itinerary for an Aerial Journey (Anatomical Head) (1945). In the last decade of his life, his works segued to abstraction. Throughout his life, Tchelitchew was renowned as a set designer because of his innovative use of material and lighting. His most-celebrated designs include the ballets Ode (1928), choreographed by Léonide Massine to music by Nicolas Nabokov, L’Errante (1933), choreographed by George Balanchine to music by Schubert, and Nobilissima Visione (St Francis) (1938), choreography by Massine to music by Paul Hindemith, as well as Jean Giraudoux’s play Ondine (1939). Tchelitchew became an American citizen in 1952, just before moving to Italy, where he pasted away in 1957.

Timeline

1898
Born Moscow, Russia
1918
Attends the Kiev Academy
1918
Makes street posters and stage sets for local theaters
1921–1923
Goes to Berlin, meets Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballet Russe
1923
Moves to Paris and begins easel painting
1934
Visits America, continues designing sets for ballets,in association with George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky
1957
Died

Exhibitions

2000
Private Realisms: American Paintings 1934-1949, Jonathan Edwards College, Yale University, New Haven, CT
1998
The Surrealist Vision: Europe and The Americas, Bruce Museum, Greenwich, FL
1998
Katonah Art Museum, Katonah, NY (solo)
1997
Surrealism and American Art 1932-1949, Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL
1994
Perceivable Realities (Eilshemius, Graves, Tanner and Tchelitchew), Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY
1993
Pavel Tchelitchew: Nature Transformed, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1992
Art of the 1940s, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1991
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1964
Gallery of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
1952
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI (solo)
1951
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT (solo)
1950
Symbolic Realism in American Painting 1940 – 1950, The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, England
1949
Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art, Buenos Aires, Brazil (solo)
1942
Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (solo)
1938
Chicago Arts Club, Chicago, IL (solo)
1935
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT (solo)
1935
Chicago Arts Club, Chicago, IL (solo)
1930
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
1926
Neo-Romantics, Galerie Druet, Paris, France
1925
Salon d'Automne, Paris, France
1924
Galerie Henri, Paris, France
1923
Galerie Flechtcheim, Berlin

Public Collections

Boston Museum
Courtauld Institute, London
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
Musée de Beaux-Arts, Grenoble
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Philadelphia Museum

Literature

1993
Pavel Tchelitchew: Nature Transformed. New York, NY: Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 1993