Pavel Tchelitchew

Born October 3, 1898, Moscow, Russia. Died July 31, 1957, Grottaferrata, Italy.
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Pavel Tchelitchew Biography

Russian-born painter, printmaker, draughtsman and stage designer Pavel Tchelitchew was best known for his imaginative Surrealist concoctions of geometric abstractions and stretches of landscape superimposed onto biomorphic forms. His work synthesized mystical, erotic and highly symbolic imagery to experiment with the nature of objecthood, painting and modern life in the twentieth century.

Born in Kaluga, Russia to a noble family of landowners in 1898, Tchelitchew received private tutelage before his family was forced to flee the Russian Revolution to Kiev in 1918, where he studied under Aleksandra Aleksandrovna Ekster, also known as Alexandra Exter, at the Kiev Academy. He produced stage sets in Kiev, Odessa, and Berlin, before moving to Paris in 1923, where he was welcomed by the center of intellectual discourse of the avant-garde, Gertrude Stein. His work developed Cubist and Surrealist tendencies, and he formed a small movement of artists known as the Neo Humanists, which included André Lanskoy, Christian Bérard and Eugene Berman. He collaborated with Sergei Diaghilev and George Balanchine, producing stage designs with increasing levels of fantasy and metaphysical forms. Moving to New York in the early 1930s, he produced illustrations for View magazine – which was spearheaded by Tchelitchew’s partner Charles Henri Ford – contributing to Surrealism’s debut in the United States. He became known for his portraits and paintings which he developed through a complex matrix of symbols and references to the aesthetics of circus culture, bullfighting or anatomical studies of muscular and neurological systems.

Tchelitchew became an American citizen in 1952, but continued to live an international lifestyle, spending much of his time in Italy, France and Germany. His work appeared in one of the Museum of Modern Art’s earliest exhibitions in 1930, along with Picasso, Matisse, Miro and Klee. His works can be found at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Courtauld Gallery in London and many other major museums around the world.

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