Collection 1880s–1940s

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Pavel Tchelitchew. Hide-and-Seek. Derby, Vermont and New York, June 1940 - June 1942 273

Oil on canvas, 6' 6 1/2" x 7' 3/4" (199.3 x 215.3 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund

Narrator: Journalist and pharmacologist Hamilton Morris.

Hamilton Morris: I've been writing a story about this cult slash fringe religious group, and one of the former members was saying, “Oh, do you know about this painting Hide-and-Seek? This is the most amazing piece of art ever created.”

This became their place of worship. They would take peyote and look at this painting, but I don't think that's even necessary.

Narrator: Pavel Tchelitchew believed that different moments and perspectives could “exist as one.” This is reflected in the many images hidden throughout this painting.

Hamilton Morris: So you have the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil from the book of Genesis. And a child that is peeing on the side of the tree. When you look where the child is peeing, it's not just against this tree of life. It's peeing directly onto the face of an old man, who is part of this tree.

The endless simultaneous images. It is mind boggling. It's a little bit overwhelming. But I really think that's what makes it so amazing is the sense that you could look at it for hours.

It's possible Tchelitchew took mescaline in the 1930s or 1940s. There's no evidence that that's the case. But then I see these strange indications.

If this painting had been made in 1968, it would've been dismissed immediately as psychedelic art. But this actually was painted decades before anyone aside from a very small number of people were using psychedelic drugs.