- Pavel Tchelitchew
- Le Jongleur
- Signed P. Tchelitchew and dated 31 (lower right)
- Oil on canvas
- 39 3/8 by 31 7/8 in.
- 100 by 81 cm
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1966)
Thence by descent
Paris, Galerie Lucie Weill, Exposition Pavel Tchelitchew, 1966, no. 7
The New York Cultural Center, Leonid and his Friends, 1974
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Born into an aristocratic Russian family in 1898, Pavel Tcheltichew, after fleeing the Russian Revolution, arrived in Paris in 1923. By the late 1920s, Tchelitchew had become preoccupied with the theme of the circus. This fascination was inspired in part by Picasso's pictures from 1905-6, which Tchelitchew first viewed in Gertrude Stein's apartment. Stein had noticed Tchelitchew's work in the 1925 Salon D'Automne, where he had submitted an oil entitled Basket of Strawberries. After seeing the painting, Stein asked for the artist's address, arrived at his studio, and enthusiastically endorsed his work. She then invited the young artist to her apartment. It was here that Tchelitchew had the chance to see Picasso's Rose Period works, which would profoundly influence his paintings between 1929 and 1932.
In 1942, the Museum of Modern Art held an exhibition of Tchelitchew's paintings and drawings. In the catalogue for the exhibition, James Thrall Soby writes, "Tchelitchew's works of 1930 and 1931 were exhibited in a one-man show at the Galerie Vignon, Paris, in June of the latter year. During the summer, after completing several still lifes of flowers, he began the short series of tattooed circus figures which carried through into 1932. His interest in the subject sprang naturally from his concern with interior, multiple images. . . Late in 1929 he had begun a still unfinished gouache showing a juggler's back full of metamorphic forms suggested by the subject's muscular structure" (Tchelitchew, New York, 1942, p. 23). Le Jongleur, painted in 1931, is the finished version of this drawing.
Tchelitchew's works from this period portray the heroic isolation of dancers, clowns and circus performers, usually depicted against an abstracted plane. In the present work, the juggler's back is rendered against a blood-red background, with the shadow of his profile visible to his right. A strong-man circus performer, a crouching figure of a woman, and stretching figures of men, emerge and intertwine to create the juggler's shoulders, arms and back. "Tchetlichew became absorbed with the idea of metamorphosis, a collective object or image composed of other complete images, and their interplay, balance, contrast and opposition in which there was a ceaseless dialogue of the whole with its parts. His 'laconic' compositions are a product of this development. . . .Images melted; the sequence of shift was more kinetic. There were added visual puns, coincidences, lurking surprises; it took more time to read these paintings" (Lincoln Kirstein, Pavel Tchelitchew (exhibition catalogue), New York, 1964, p. 19).
Fig. 1 Pablo Picasso, Young Acrobat on a Ball, 1905, Oil on canvas, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Fig. 2 The artist in his studio, New York, 1942. Photo by George Platt Lynes