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Pavel Tchelitchew collection

Call Number: YCAL MSS 318

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, writings, photographs, and printed material that document the artistic pursuits and personal life of Russian-born painter, set designer, and costume designer Pavel Tchelitchew. The material documents Tchelitchew's assessment of his own work, the conception and execution of many of his paintings and his business dealings with collectors, galleries and museums. In addition to documentation of Tchelitchew's life as an emigre, some material relates to his early life in Russia. A memoir of Tchelitchew's sister Alexandra Zaoussailoff (unpublished during her lifetime) recounts their childhood and describes their family background and upbringing. A few official documents attest to Tchelitchew's noble ancestry and his early education.

Most of the correspondence in the collection is with close friends and family, documenting both personal relationships and business activity. A portion of the correspondence relates specifically to Tchelitchew's business dealings with collectors, museums and galleries. Among the writings are short autobiographical sketches and self-reflective essays examining his development as an artist. The printed material includes collected images from magazines, postcards or books that he saved for their influence on his work. Photographs date chiefly from the years prior to the Second World War, when Tchelitchew, Zaoussailoff and friends spent their summers in Guermantes, France.

In addition to the primary research interest of Tchelitchew's life and work, the collection documents several aspects of twentieth century art and history. Tchelitchew's correspondence documents the cosmopolitan nature of artistic society before and after the Second World War in Europe and the United States. Family correspondence throughout the collection and Zaoussailoff's memoir document the social history of a post-Revolutionary aristocratic Russian family.


  • 1907 - 1971
  • Majority of material found within 1928 - 1957


Language of Materials

In Russian, English,French and other languages.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Restricted Fragile in box 30 may be consulted only with permission of the appropriate curator. Preservation photocopies or photographic prints for reference use have been substituted in the main files.

Box 33 (sound recording): Restricted fragile. Reference copies may be requested. Consult Access Services for further information.

Existence and Location of Copies

Correspondence with Edith Sitwell is available on microfilm.

Conditions Governing Use

The Pavel Tchelitchew Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection contains material of mixed provenance acquired by purchase and donation from various sources.


Organized into four series: I. Correspondence, 1923-1957. II Writings, 1934-1951. III. Printed Material, 1916-1971. IV Photographs and Other Papers, 1907-1970.


16.32 Linear Feet ((34 boxes) + 1 roll)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The collection includes correspondence, writings, photographs and printed material that document the life and work of Russian-born painter and set designer Pavel Tchelitchew. Correspondence includes letters between Tchelitchew and Edith Sitwell. Writings include the memoir of Tchelitchew's sister Alexandra Zaousailloff.

Pavel Tchelitchew, 1898-1957

Russian-born painter, set designer, and costume designer, Pavel Tchelitchew emigrated in 1920. He lived in Berlin (1921-23) and Paris (1923-34) before moving to New York, where he lived with his partner Charles Henri Ford. He became a United States citizen in 1952 and died in Grottaferrata, Italy in 1957.

Tchelitchew's early painting was abstract in style, described as Constructivist and Futurist and influenced by his study with Aleksandra Ekster in Kiev. After emigrating to Paris he became associated with the Neoromanticism movement. He continuously experimented with new styles, eventually incorporating multiple perspectives and elements of surrealism and fantasy into his painting. As a set and costume designer, he collaborated with Serge Diaghliev and George Balanchine, among others.

In Paris Tchelitchew became acquainted with Gertrude Stein and, through her, the Sitwell and Gorer families. He and Edith Sitwell had a long-standing close friendship and they corresponded frequently.

Among Tchelitchew's well-known paintings are portraits of Natalia Glasko, Edith Sitwell and Gertrude Stein and the works Phenomena (1936-1938) and Cache Cache (1940-1942). He designed sets for Ode (Paris, 1928), L'Errante (Paris, 1933), Nobilissima Visione (London, 1938) and Ondine (Paris, 1939), among other productions.

Alexandra Zaoussailoff

Alexandra Zaoussailoff was sister of Pavel Tchelitchew; he addressed her as Choura (in Russian: Shura). She was the only other member of Tchelitchew’s immediate family to emigrate from Russia and lived primarily in Paris.

Appendix: Guide to the Microfilm

Series I, correspondence between Pavel Tchelitchew and Edith Sitwell and other papers found with Sitwell-Tchelitchew correspondence are available on microfilm.

ReelBoxes filmedFolders filmedNotes
19-10165-182Tchelitchew, to Edith Sitwell 1930-1945
210183-199Tchelitchew, to Edith Sitwell 1946-1957, undated
25-6108-117 Sitwell, Edith, to Tchelitchew 1929-1932
36-7118-133Sitwell, Edith, to Tchelitchew 1932 -1941
47-8134-144Sitwell, Edith, to Tchelitchew 1942-1946
58-9145-155Sitwell, Edith, to Tchelitchew 1946-1949
69156-158, 164Sitwell, Edith, to Tchelitchew 1950-51, undated
617Balston, T., to Tchelitchew 1931 Apr 28
6116Chatenay, Emile, to Tchelitchew 1934 Nov 6
6244Gorer, Geoffrey, to Tchelitchew 1930-32, n.d.
6253[James?], Edward, to Tchelitchew 1936 Jul 29
6481Koshkin, Vera, [to Tchelitchew?] 1935
6482Le Vincent, Charles, to Tchelitchew 1932 Jan 1
64106Saint Jean, Robert de, to Tchelitchew ca. 1931 Aug
611204Sitwell, Osbert, to Tchelitchew 1945 Feb 1
611207Speiser, Maurice, to Tchelitchew 1941 Feb 6
616289Zaroudnaia, Varvara, to Tchelitchew 1946
610200Edith Sitwell: "Notes on the nature of the greatest poetry", typescript carbon, corrected n.d.
610201Edith Sitwell: "A Sleepy Tune", holograph n.d.
610202Note by Tchelitchew accompanying gift of letters 1949 Feb 26
618314Sitwell, Edith, to Alexandra Zaoussailoff n.d.

Processing Information

Formerly partially processed under the call numbers ZA Tchelitchew and GEN MSS 466. Processing completed and finding aid revised in 2009.

Guide to the Pavel Tchelitchew Collection
by Lisa Conathan
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.