Ink on paper
15 3/4 x 11 3/8 in (40 x 28.9 cm)
This early drawing displays an orgy of bodies rendered in a stylized, comic book style. Representative of Tchelitchew’s large production of homoerotic drawings, it is a provocative and humorous call to carpe diem. The tangle of human bodies anticipates the biomorphic, Surrealist turn his work would take in the 30s and 40s.
Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957) was born in Kaluga, Russia to an aristocratic family of landowners, and soon settled in Kiev, Ukraine, after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Openly homosexual from an early age, Tchelitchew first became interested in ballet and dance, designing sets and costumes, before pursuing fine art. After living in Paris for a few years he then moved to New York where he would spend most of his life.
[Tchelitchew] was a leading figure in a circle of artists — including Paul Cadmus, Fidelma Cadmus Kirstein, Charles Henri Ford, Jared French, Margaret Hoening French, George Platt Lynes, Bernard Perlin, George Tooker, Alexander Jensen Yow — who were playfully and boldly homosexual at a time when it was both criminalized and pathologized. They pursued a modernism of the body—driven by eroticism and bounded by intimacy, forming a hothouse world within a world that doesn’t nicely fit any subsequent narrative of modern American art. In their work, they looked away from abstraction toward older sources and models—classical and archaic forms of figuration and Renaissance techniques.From “Young and Evil: Queer Modernism in New York, 1930-1955 (David Zwirner Books, 2020)