PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Pavel Tchelitchew
BATHERS
JUMP TO LOT

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION

Pavel Tchelitchew
BATHERS
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Erotic: Passion & Desire

|
London

Pavel Tchelitchew
RUSSIAN, 1898 - 1957
BATHERS
signed in Latin and dated 38 l.r.; further bearing various exhibition labels on the stretcher
oil on canvas
94.5 by 56cm, 37 1/4 by 22in.
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Provenance

Peter Watson, Paris
Bernard Perlin, New York
Theodore F.Starkowski, New York
Sotheby Parke Bernet New York, Modern Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 10 April 1980, lot 98
Ruth Ford, New York
Geoffrey Beene, New York, by 1994
Private collection, Switzerland, acquired in 2001
Christie's New York, Impressionist and Modern Art Day Sale, 6 November 2008, lot 241
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

New York, Midtown Payson Galleries, Pavel Tchelitchev, A Reevaluation, September-November 1994
New York, DC Moore Gallery, Interwoven Lives, George Platt Lynes and his friends, September-October 2001

Literature

M.Wishart, High Diver, London: Blond and Briggs, 1977, p.54 mentioned in the text
L.Kirstein, Tchelitchew, Santa Fe: Twelvetrees Press, 1994, pl.46 illustrated in colour; p.172 listed with incorrect dimensions and incorrectly dated 1936
A.Kuznetsov, Pavel Tchelitchew. Metamorphoses, Stuttgart: ARNOLDSCHE Art Publishers, 2012, p.41 mentioned in the text
A.Clark and J.Dronfield, Queer Saint: The Cultured Life of Peter Watson, London: John Blake, 2015, ch.11 A Heavenly Dwelling mentioned in the text

Catalogue Note

In 1930s Paris, Tchelitchew and his partner Charles Henri Ford ran with a glamourous, but motley crew, of artists, socialites and hangers-on which included Jean Cocteau, Christopher Isherwood, Cecil Beaton and Peter Watson. Watson was an important figure in the British arts scene. Co-founder of the ICA, owner and financial backer of the arts journal Horizon and champion of many young artists, he bought his first Tchelitchew in 1932.

At the outbreak of war, Watson abandoned Paris for London leaving an exceptionally fine art collection behind. A number of works were redistributed or flogged by friends, lovers and dealers, but much fell into the hands of the Nazis. Watson succeeded in recovering parts of his former Paris collection, although Bathers was most likely acquired in London around the time of the exhibition of Phenomena at Arthur Tooth’s gallery. ‘A man made for honeymoons and not for marriages’ in the words of Stephen Spender, on his return he resumed his apartment in the rue du Bac with his on-off boyfriend, the American opium-addicted gigolo Denham Fouts, to whom he gave this picture. Hanging on the bedroom wall of one of the 20th century’s most famous grands horizontals, it did not go unnoticed.

A protégé of Watson’s, the adolescent Michael Wishart, promptly fell in love with Fouts on his arrival in Paris in 1947. In his memoirs he vividly recalls the present lot at this time: ‘Above our bed hung a life-size painting by Tchelitchew, representing a rather fungoid naked Adonis. Painted as though from between the model’s parted feet the focal point was his scrotum, which loomed large in the middle distance. By hanging this painting upside down, or sometimes upon the ceiling above us, Denham created a very vertiginous perspective, wholly suited to our life-style.’ (M.Wishart, High Diver, London: Quartet, 1977) Fouts died in Rome in 1948 of a drug-induced heart condition and Watson subsequently gave up their flat in the rue du Bac selling off many of his pictures.

Originally inspired by sketches made on the shores of Lake Garda, Tchelitchew’s Bathers depicts Ford and the New York City Ballet dancer Nicholas Magallanes. Ford is recognisable on the left wearing the same incongruous pink hat he wears in an earlier portrait but Magallanes’ aggressively foreshortened muscular figure takes centre stage.

We are grateful to Adrian Clark, co-author of 'Queer Saint: The Cultured Life of Peter Watson', for providing additional catalogue information.

Erotic: Passion & Desire

|
London