This is a long, unorthodox biography of the Russian emigre painter best known in this country for his ""Hide and Seek"" at the New York Museum of Modern Art. Friend and sympathetic critic Tyler has attempted to define three stages of Tchelitchew's life: his youth in pre-Bolshevik Russia; his young manhood as member of the White Russian Army and Paris artist; and his working life in the United States with free-living and famous contemporaries. This is done via three key paintings, ""Hide and Seek,"" ""Phenomena,"" and ""Inacheve,"" which, the argument goes, represent Purgatory, Hell and Paradise in that order. But to show the relationship between paintings and life Tyler tunes in on the same supernatural, spiritual and arcane spheres as his subject and although he projects a feeling of existence lived in this fashion, it is hard to say how much is Tyler's and how much is sheer sham. It is perhaps like viewing ""Hide and Seek,"" with its endless appearances and reappearances of child- faces in the tree trunk and foliage.