New York, Gallery of Modern Art, Pavel Tchelitchew, 20 March - 19 April 1964, no.122
Exhibition catalogue Pavel Tchelitchew, New York, 1964, p.60, no.122 listed
Le Rêve previously belonged to Edward James, the great patron of the Surrealists who owned a large collection of works by Tchelitchew. The two had been introduced by Edith Sitwell in 1928, when Tchelitchew had his first solo exhibition in England. In the winter of 1933, the year the present work was painted, the artist was working on his highly innovative costume and set designs for the ballet L’Errante for Les Ballets 1933, the short-lived company founded by Boris Kochno and George Balanchine and bankrolled by James, who at the time was in a tumultuous marriage with the dancer Tilly Tosch.
The early 1930s was a decisive period for both Tchelitchew’s life and career. In 1932, at a party given by Djuna Barnes, he met the young American poet Charles Henri Ford who would become his lifelong companion and with whom he would soon move to the United States. In 1933, he had a solo exhibition at Arthur Tooth and Sons in London and he met the gallerist Julien Levy, who would organise Tchelitchew's first solo exhibition in New York City in 1934 and several more during the following few years.
Stylistically, in the 1930s Tchelitchew moves away from the monochromatic works of the previous decade and his palette brightens, as for example in his Portrait of Charles Henri Ford (1933; illustrated in A.Kuznetsov, Pavel Tchelitchew. Metamorphosis, 2012, p.173, ill.141), or, in fact, in the present work. In Le Rêve, Tchelitchew uses a combination of different shades of blue and ochre, typical of many of his best works from the period. The paint surface becomes smooth, in stark contrast to his experiments with using coffee and sand begun in 1927.
The girl with the bobbed hair resembles one of the children in the 1934 work Les Enfants (illustrated in Kuznetsov, 2012, p.180, no.150). In both paintings light surrounds the figure like a halo as if the girl herself is a source of light. In the present work, she is playing cat’s cradle, a development of the string motif from Tchelitchew’s portraits of the 1920s.
Original canvas, which is buckling slightly in the corners. There are a few small losses to the edges of the canvas, caused by nails in the frame: One to the centre of the top edge, two to the left edge, and a tiny hole to the bottom edge below the trees. There are further minor abrasions and paint losses along the edges as well as a few minor scattered scratches and scuffs in places. A few cracks are visible in places, most notably to the sky and vertically through the centre of the canvas. There is light layer of surface dirt. Inspection under UV light reveals some minor retouching along the upper half of the right edge. Held in a gilt wooden frame with plaster mouldings. Unexamined out of frame. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."