Thursday, 29 September 2011

In a frenzy over Tretchikoff

If a necktie strangler was stalking women in 1960s London, it made sense to Alfred Hitchcock to furnish the killer’s (fruit and veg seller Bob Rusk) pad with Tretchikoff paintings to emphasise his lack of taste and odd nature. Although I have never used my neck tie for any other means than a decorative one to show off a dandy pattern, I share not only Mr Rusk’s love for the necktie but also his paintings of choice.

The Tretchikoff paintings are that rare thing. Pieces of art that are now treasured yet only a few calendar years ago could usually be seen being callously dumped into a skip by an embarrassed family member clearing out his late mothers last possessions. What? A piece of sixties  kitsch being treated in this way? Where was the respect for the Chinese Girl I hear you say?  The love for Miss Wong? Even the Balinese Girl could be seen at a knocked down price in local charity shops, her fate looking equal to that of the Max Bygrave records  she was invariably placed near (no offence to Mr Bygraves, his 100 Golden Greats was a staple part of my Gran’s record collection.)

It all seemed so sad. Now however, thanks to a sixties revival and general interest in all things kitsch, the Tretchikoff paintings are hot property once more.
Tara and I wanted very much to introduce our walls to Tretchikoff , and like many, hung onto our laptops and went into a mouse clicking frenzy online to secure ownership of our first one. Fellow savvy bidders outbid us, other paintings were seen to be not in their original condition (under glass? No!) or not in that crisp white frame with the Boots sticker on the back, a stamp of authenticity only matched by Tretchikoff himself delivering it to our front door. Finally, after cufflinks were taken off to allow sleeves to be rolled up, and fevered foreheads were dabbed with hankies, the tense bidding war was over with the hammer coming down on our first winning bid. The Balinese Girl was ours!

We discovered she was living in an attic in Saltash after a lifetime of hanging in the main bedroom and scaring the owner's son, who was the one who put it on ebay to sell. We counted out some crisp pound notes and pointed the car towards Saltash. One rainy night drive later, and she was hanging on our wall in pride of place, above our stereo system who welcomed her with the dulcet tones of Frank Sinatra and his friends, Dean and Sammy.  A jolly good result for all, and one less for Tara and I to hunt for. However more good luck was to follow, as well as a coincidence powerful enough to knock the trilby of any gentleman’s head
We decided to purchase Tina, the wonderful John Lynch painting that, like Tretchikoff’s paintings, were stocked in Boots the Chemist in the 1960s, available to anybody with or without a prescription. We were not strangers to Mr Lynch's world. Indeed, every time the call of nature beckons, we are greeted with the sight of The Nymph, Lynch's beautiful goddess who certainly adds a piece of 1960s wall art to our bathroom.

 After taking to the internet to win the bid, Tina arrived wrapped up with her suggestive look every bit as captivating as when she was first painted. Not four days later my father, an antique dealer with a vast antique emporium who intercepted many vintage items riding the south west waves, excitedly told me that he had found a John Lynch painting in a clearance in an old fisherman’s mission. By the sounds of it, the painting had survived a lifetime of cigarette smoke, alcoholic fumes and incoming darts, while having a ringside seat to nautical debauchery. When my father arrived with the painting (whose identity he was vague over) he handed it over with a brown cover obscuring the front. I slowly ripped the cover to reveal yet another Tina staring at me with her come hither eyes. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the portraits, another Tina had arrived, and it surprised me with a jolt equal to a pang of my gentleman’s braces!

The white frame was shaded by the years of cigarette smoke which had misted over Tina’s eyes. I reached for a damp sponge, and slowly removed the grime, revealing a painting untouched by the ravages of time. When I had completed the restoration, I placed it next to my other Tina. We then had to decide, which one would hang on our wall, and which one would join Dorian Grey in the attic. It was decided that Tina number 2 had lived in a nicotine filled world for long enough, and it was time she shared our dreams in the master bedroom. And so Tina now looks over both Tara and I, a piece of vintage history another to curl the moustache of any gentleman with pride!

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