Pavel Fyodorovich Tchelitchew (born September 21, 1898 – died August 1, 1957) was an artist, theater designer, creator of new visual forms of the first half of the 20th century. Pavel Chelishchev defined his work with the words – angelic, or internal, perspective. Most of the master’s paintings are painted in the style of mystical surrealism.
Pavel Chelishchev considered his painting to be a new spiritual vision. He was interested in metaphysics and tried to portray the energy that governs human essence.
Pavel Fedorovich Chelishchev – a native of a family of a large landowner, was born on September 21, 1898 in the Dubrovka estate of the Zhizdrinsky district of the Kaluga province. In childhood, the future painter was surrounded by governesses, it was customary to communicate in English, French, German in the house.
His father, a former associate professor of mathematics at Moscow State University, introduced Pavel to the ideas of Nikolai Lobachevsky and actively supported his son’s interest in art. With the advent of Soviet power, Chelishchev, along with his family, was forced to leave Dubrovka and moved to Kiev.
There he studied at the monastery’s icon workshop and attended the Academy of Arts. In 1919 he joined the White Guard movement, served as a cartographer in the Volunteer Army. At the age of 22, the painter emigrated to Constantinople, then to Europe. From 1921 to 1923 he created scenery for theaters in Berlin, painted landscapes, still lifes, commissioned portraits.
In 1924 the painter moved to Paris. In France, he came under the patronage of the American writer Gertrude Stein, collaborated with Igor Stravinsky and Sergei Diaghilev. The Parisian period of creativity is marked by numerous portraits of friends and acquaintances. Among them are portraits of actress Ruth Ford, founder of New York Ballet Lincoln Edward Kirstein, writer and poet Charles Henri Ford, with whom Chelishchev remained in close relationship until the end of his days.
At the beginning of World War II, Pavel Chelishchev left for the United States.
He designed the covers of the magazine of European surrealists fleeing to America, illustrated a gay novel. The artist painted sets and costumes for stage projects in which George Balanchine, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau took part. In painting, the master experimented with images of people, animals, plants and other natural forms. He laid them out into their component parts, and then arranged them so that the human appearance became all-embracing, acquiring the features of animate and inanimate nature.
In America, Pavel Chelishchev was in search of an eternal soul. It was no longer occupied by the outer shell of living objects, but by their volume, the pulsation of the vessels, the glow of the aura.
After the war, the artist moved to Italy and retired to the Villa Frascati (Italian Frascati). During this period, he turned to abstract painting, was interested in astrology and occult practice. His later works, executed in the style of geometric abstraction, possessed a deep mysticism that foreshadowed the psychedelic idealism of the Soviet abstractionists of the 1960s.
The last years of Pavel Chelishchev’s life were spent in Italy, near an Orthodox monastery. The painter died on August 1, 1957.
The most famous paintings by Pavel Fedorovich Chelishchev
Pavel Chelishchev’s paintings are rightfully considered outstanding examples of symbolism in the art of the last century. The deeply personal, sensual, fantastic images of the painter amaze viewers to this day:
- “Portrait of Sergei Lifar” (1929) – depiction of a dancer in the role of a prince from the ballet “Swan Lake”. The work masterfully conveys the strength and intense thoughtfulness of the hero of a mysterious legend.
- Portrait of Ruth Ford (1937) is an elegant masterpiece that embodies feminine charm and childish naivety. The painting was sold in 2010 five times higher than the estimate – for $ 986,500.
- The Phenomenon (1936-1938) is a grotesque mystery, a reflection of hell. This is the first work transferred to Russia by the will of the master. The painting is kept in the Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow).
- “The seeker will find” (“The Game of Hide and Seek” or “Kash-Kash”) (1940-1942) is a painting painted in the technique of automatism, in which there is no conscious intention. The figure of a baby being born is a symbol of the artist’s procreation.