Vera Pegrum - The UK’s answer to Tretchikoff?


Vera Pegrum painted portraits of Asian and African men and women, including her very own Miss Wong and Green Lady, the names given to two of Tretchikoff’s most famous works!


Over the Years, a number of people have drawn comparisons between the paintings produced by Vera Pegrum and Vladimir Tretchikoff. The similarities cited, however, tend to be superficial, revolving mainly around their subject matter and style – both painted portraits of Asian and African men and women, and both tended toward realism as their medium.

But scratching beneath this surface reveals the parallels run a little deeper. For instance, not only did Vera Pegrum produce her very own Miss Wong, she also painted her own Green Lady, the names given to two of Tretchikoff’s most famous works.

When it comes to birthdays, Vladimir Tretchikoff was greedy – he effectively had two. On the Julian calendar, in use in his Russian birth land at the time, he was born on 13th December 1913. Whereas, on the Gregorian calendar, effective in Europe, and later adopted by Russia in 1918, his date of birth was 26th December 1913. One month later, to the day, on 26th January 1914, Marjorie Vera Sales was born in Maidstone, Kent, to mother Rebecca Sales and father Richard Sales, a brewer by trade.

Indeed, Vera’s daughter, Sally, remembers: “My mother told me her early memories were of being frightened of the huge brewery dray horses.” Sally also says, “Vera drew and painted from an early age, filling the margins of her textbooks at school with sketches.”

Although it’s unclear exactly when Vera dropped the name Marjorie, Sally has a series of watercolours in her collection signed Marjorie Sales, which were obviously inspired by Greta Garbo’s appearance in the film The Painted Veil. As this film was released in 1934, what is certain is that she was signing her paintings this way as late as her early twenties.

It was while she was in her twenties that Vera left home and went to live in London with her older sister, Florence, who apparently used to call her ‘Swift’, a nickname filled with irony.

Read more in Issue 46…

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Woo Gilchrist