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Born in Russia to an aristocratic family, Pavel Tchelitchew expressed interest in art and ballet from a young age. He studied under Russian painter and designer Aleksandra Ekster at the Kiev Academy and, after graduating, moved on to designing and building theater sets in Odessa and Berlin in the early 1920s. It was in 1923, when he moved to Paris and became acquainted with Gertrude Stein and her circle, that his career truly began to develop. Tchelitchew’s particular interest in combining painting, film, and dance led him to collaborate with choreographer George Balanchine, stage designer Sergei Diaghilev, and British poet Edith Sitwell (with whom he developed a long-standing, close friendship).
Tchelitchew’s work was first shown, along with other artists, at the newly opened Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1930. He moved there several years later with his partner, writer Charles Henri Ford, where he continued to work with Balanchine and met his greatest patron, Lincoln Kirstein. Throughout the 1940s he contributed illustrations to the Surrealist magazine _View_. Tchelitchew’s style evolved throughout his career, beginning with Constructivist and Futurist influences early on to Neo-romanticism and eventually including elements of surrealism and fantasy.
Though he became a United States citizen in 1952, Tchelitchew spent most of his life in Italy from 1949 onward, dying there in 1957 with his partner, Ford, by his bedside. Tchelitchew’s work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.