The original Chinese Girl, a painting that has become one of the most recognisable and reproduced pictures in the world, sold for twice its estimate when a buyer paid nearly £1m at an auction on Wednesday.
The work was sold at Bonhams in London where a new auction record was set for the artist, the late Vladimir Tretchikoff, a Russian émigré who settled in South Africa and regarded his work with utmost seriousness.
He saw symbolic realism while the more polite critics saw colourful kitsch. The critic William Feaver went further in a 1974 BBC documentary, calling it “the most unpleasant work to be published in the 20th century. You’ve got flat form, hair that is not hair at all but is simply an opaque layer of dull and insipid paint. You have shoulders which have no substance, you have muzzy line work”.
That was not a view shared by millions