When we moved into our house, we kind of quickly put up our vintage prints on the walls in the hallway; mainly because the pictures were so big and so many, that it was an easy place to put them out of the way. There were lots of hanging hooks up already, and it was quick enough a job to position a few of the big ones where we wanted them. The intention was that at some point in the future, when the moving dust had settled, we would go back and rehang them in a slightly better fashion. Well, that never happened. There they hang, and there they stay.
We did make the decision to put the slightly more naked ladies on the upstairs landing, rather than in the downstairs hall. It just felt more appropriate that way. One of the prints by Louis Shabner – ‘Melanie’ – appears to be wearing a rather saucy dressing gown and undercrackers combo, so she was a natural choice for our bedroom. Admittedly, we do also have things like a Duplo heart and a vintage kissing toy in there, so it’s not the naughty den of exoticness that ‘Melanie’ would have you believe.
Vladimir Tretchikoff is probably the most well known of all the mass market artists. His iconic and instantly recognisable prints have adorned the walls of many homes. They’re not to everyone’s taste, but they certainly have an impact. One of the first ever pictures we bought was a copy of ‘Miss Wong’ from a car boot sale for 50p. We sold it on eBay, not being that keen on it at the time. It sold for quite a lot of money (at the time) and so we kept our eyes out for another one. But as always, familiarity seems to breed love in our house, and we kept the next one we bought.
Over time, we’ve collected more Tretchikoff prints and they take pride of place in our downstairs hallway. Some of them I love more than others. For example, I love Balinese Girl and Zulu Girl:
I particularly like the expression on Zulu Girl’s face: she looks so calm, yet powerful. Many of Tretchikoff’s paintings were based on his real life ‘muses’. There’s a really interesting biography on the Tretchikoff website which outlines some of the beginnings of his paintings in the late 1940s, with a Eurasian model named Lenka. I wonder what these two women were like in real life: the impression is given of natives from far off lands, but I wonder how true that is and how much of it is artistic license for the pictures.
Billed as Tretchikoff’s most famous print, the Chinese Girl, commonly referred to as the Blue or Green Lady supposedly sold more copies than the Mona Lisa. The painting’s model, Monica Pon, apparently earned no money from this – probably something else she has in common with the original Mona Lisa. Despite its ubiquity, the Chinese Girl isn’t actually my favourite. She’s striking, but Zulu Girl just pips it for me.
We also have these couple of little prints, one of which was a gift from the owners of Wowie Zowie, this great little shop that used to be in Chorlton. They gave us the boy with a watermelon, and it is actually signed by Tretchikoff! They acquired it from an old woman who queued up to meet the artist and have her picture signed. I’ve discussed on this blog before about the possible connotations of the subject matter. It’s a tricky one, that I don’t really want to go into again in depth. I like the picture; I see a happy, smiling child but I’m aware of the history and subtext that goes along with the image, particularly in America. I’d like to hope that Tretchikoff painted it with the same respect he seems to show (at least within his paintings) his subjects from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.
And then there’s the deer picture. Cute deer cuddling in some woods. Can’t go wrong with that.
Or Louis, Loui, Louie… whatever his scrawl of a signature may read. Shabner has created some of my absolute favourite prints. They’re glamourous; more of a fantasy than the type of paintings that Tretchikoff was painting. The women depicted in Shabner’s prints don’t look real, but they really define particular eras.
She’s a 1970s’ Gail if ever you saw one, isn’t she?
Shabner started out as a glamour girl and pin up artist. His paintings still seem to retain the glamour and fantasy of a pinup, in my opinion. All of his paintings are named for the women depicted, and they are all gorgeous. It’s the underlying theme, really. Whereas Tretchikoff seems to be trying to show something about their character, ethnic background or status; for me, Shabner is all about the glamour. It’s unattainable. Alluring.
I mentioned ‘Melanie’ earlier on. She resides in our bedroom, next to ‘Sara’.
We do have another one that I’ve been unable to identify, but the picture I’ve taken is particularly atrocious. So she will be saved for another day now.
Next in our mass market art collection are the prints by J. H. Lynch. The artist himself is quite a mystery as apparently, there is nothing left but his paintings and his signature. There’s a really good website about Lynch which is dedicated to researching his life and work. His picture of ‘Tina’ is also one of the most recognisable of the genre:
We know her name is Tina because it has a sticker on the back with it on. Our three other prints are ‘Autumn Leaves’ ‘Woodland Goddess’ and ‘Water Nymph’.
We also have a print by an artist called Van der Syde. This print is entitled ‘Nina’ and I’ve written about the possible connection between the two pictures before.
These are all the prints we have up around the house at the moment. Over the years, we’ve accumulated quite a few. Some have been sold, some are in the garage. We can’t bring ourselves to get rid of these lovely ladies though.