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Boris Gorelik Comments on the Auctioning of Tretchikoff’s “Miss Wong” and “Journey’s End”

Incredible TretchikoffBoris Gorelik, author of Incredible Tretchikoff, has taken a keen interest in the recent auctioning of two of the artist’s paintings, “Miss Wong” and “Journey’s End”.

Gorelik writes in his book about Camps Bay resident Valerie Howe who had been the model for “Miss Wong” while Tretchikoff had lived and worked in South Africa. Her famous portrait was auctioned off at Stephan Welz & Co’s Decorative and Fine Arts Sale on 1 October and fetched the sum of R 3,5 million.

The very next day, “Journey’s End” was sold at a Bonhams auction in London for £74 500 (R1,2 million). This follows the auctioning of Tretchikoff’s “The Chinese Girl”, arguably his most famous work, which was sold for a record R13,8 million earlier this year. Gorelik had expected the other paintings to earn closer to the amount paid for “The Chinese Girl”.

In an article in the Cape Times, released before auction, UCT art lecturer Andrew Lamprecht had commented that “In my opinion, ‘Miss Wong’ is in some respects superior to Chinese Girl“. The article also refers to the true identity of the woman in the painting:

This is Valerie Howe, or as most people have come to know her, Miss Wong.

The half-French, half-Chinese woman is the subject of one of artist Vladimir Tretchikoff’s better-known paintings, which is to be auctioned in Cape Town next Tuesday.

Gorelik’s research on “Miss Wong” is discussed in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

It’s one of the famous images of the 1950s and ’60s, reproduced hundreds of thousands of times on everything from cushions to coffee mugs.

But while the rest of the world knows this kitsch classic as Miss Wong, to Sydney surgeon Wayne Young it’s simply a portrait of his late mother, Valerie.

Gorelik shared his research on the painting “Journey’s End” on his blog:

Patrick McCay, the original owner of Journey’s End, was an avid art collector, even when he was a struggling sheep farmer in the Karoo, near the town of Hanover. ‘I can remember as a child, our farm house was full of paintings’, says his daughter. ‘There wasn’t a single space on any wall. A sheep farmer gets one cheque and stretches it for the year. For all that, he managed to purchase canvases by Frans Oerder, Tinus de Jongh, Vernon Ward, Terence Cuneo and Sir Russell Flint.’

McCay bought Journey’s End after Tretchikoff’s second exhibition in Cape Town (1949). He had intended to acquire the Lost Orchid but lost out John Schlesinger, the heir to South Africa’s business empire. After he returned to the Karoo, he couldn’t sleep for three nights. He wanted the orchid painting so much. On the fourth day, he phoned Tretchikoff’s agent. It turned out that she had something similar to offer him.

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