Pavel Tchelitchew at Sotheby’s

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Over several sales in 2010 Sotheby’s will offer works by Pavel Tchelitchew from the collection of actress Ruth Ford, who died at age 98 this past summer. Ford was as well known for her friendships with some of the most important arts figures of her day as she was for her performances in films and plays. The parties she threw for the likes of Tennessee Williams, Leonard Bernstein, Edward Albee and Stephen Sondheim at her home in The Dakota on the Upper West Side of Manhattan are the stuff of legend.

Ruth FordThe apartment was filled with masterworks by Tchelitchew, the Russian painter and lifelong partner of her brother, writer and publisher Charles Henri Ford, who died in 2002. The majority of the most valuable paintings will be offered in Sotheby’s sale of Russian Art on Wednesday 21 April in New York. Overall the collection is estimated to fetch approximately $2 million.

Sonya Bekkerman, Head of Sotheby’s Russian Paintings Department in New York, said “These paintings offer a fascinating insight to the glamorous world of Ruth Ford, a ‘saloniere’ who, for decades, entertained many of the great figures of New York society at her Dakota apartment. This is a very personal collection, since several compositions feature portraits of Charles, Ruth and many of their friends and acquaintances.”

Ruth Ford was born in Mississippi in 1911. After moving to New York she started a modeling career that would see her photographed by Cecil Beaton, Man Ray and Carl Van Vechten among other leading photographers.

She appeared in a number of plays including several at the Mercury Theatre in New York which was then owned by Orson Wells, a close friend and her daughter’s godfather. After several years of theatre work she moved to Hollywood where she appeared in dozens of films, though ultimately she returned to Broadway.

TchelitchewRuth Ford and Charles Henri Ford were devoted siblings who lived in the same Upper West Side apartment block. Charles, who was known for his handsome good looks, authored America’s first ‘gay novel’ which was later banned in the US and Britain. He also published the short lived but influential Blues: A Magazine of New Rhythms – A Bisexual Bimonthly and the magazine View which was to become the most significant magazine for the Surrealist group during and post World War II.

From the 1930s Charles and Tchelitchew lived together, and many of the works in this collection were gifts from the artist to his partner and were later bequeathed to his sister.

Tchelitchew was born in Russia at the end of the 19th century but fled following the Revolution of 1918. He eventually found his way to Paris where he lived in the artistic neighborhood of Montparnasse and moved in intellectual circles that included Edith Sitwell and Gertrude Stein, his most significant patrons. His painterly style developed into what was termed Neo-Romanticism and he became interested in the concept of metamorphosis; the interplay of different objects and perspectives in time and space. It was this style that led him to produce his masterpiece – Hide and Seek, a painting in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York that was voted the public’s favorite painting in the MoMA collection in the 1940s.

Among the many Tchelitchew paintings that will be offered are the iconic Portrait of Ruth Ford (est. $100/150,000) and Portrait of a Tattooed Man ($250/350,000).

For more information, please visit the Sotheby’s website.

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