Legend has it that when Konstantin Korovin was shown Pavel Tchelitchew's early works, he said: “I have nothing to teach him. He’s already an artist”. Tchelitchew was interested in art from a young age and took private lessons. He was particularly influenced by his experience in Alexndra Exter’s studio in Kiev, and experimented with cubism in his early works. The costume design from Vladimir Spivakov’s collection demonstrates a cubo-futurist approach to form and energetic movement of line.
The work was made in 1920 in Constantinople, where the artist was working with Viktor Zimin and Boris Knyazev's ballet companies. It is not known for which production Tchelitchew created this colourful, dynamic figure of a dancer with a tambourine.
Vladimir Spivakov first saw this work in the Russian Tea Room, a Russian restaurant in Manhattan, not far from Carnegie Hall. He recalls: “I had a bad experience in that concert hall. On 7 November 1977, while I was playing Bach’s Chaconne, a 3kg paint bomb hit me in the solar plexus. That was the way some people fought for the right to emigrate from the Soviet Union. . . After the concert we went to the Russian Tea Room and there I saw these works by Pavel Tchelitchew. Later I saw them at Anatoly Bekkerman’s ABA Gallery: I have a very good memory for paintings. Bekkerman, whose knowledge and taste I trust, gave them to me”.