The Russian-born artist Vladimir Grigoryevich Tretchikoff (1913 – 2006) was well-liked during his lifetime as a painter of portraits, ethnic groups, animals, and floral compositions. Equipped with a self-taught personal style, his still life paintings retain special and unique qualities which distinguished his artworks from the artists of his generation. With his painterly skills, he explored new ways to render compositions and subjects, which included an array of flower studies.
The present work is made up of Kniphofia (Red Hot pokers) and white Gladiolus (Sword Lilies) flowers in a bouquet. It was painted during 1948 shortly after he settled in Cape Town and in the year when Tretchikoff had his first solo exhibition at the Maskew Miller Gallery in Adderley Street. The impasto technique used to paint the Pokers rendered attractive textures of red, black, dark blue, and yellow colours, while the off-white pinkish tinted rendition of the Lilies conveys a softness to the composition. The selection of two different flower species superimposed on a green-shaded background is expertly balanced on the canvas. In the composition, the light projects from the right leaving a darker turquoise area at the bottom left of the work rendering a feeling of freshness to the flowers. This early South African manner of working conveys a different creative appearance when compared to Tretchikoff’s later thin-layered flower and portraiture paintings, making the present work unique.