Sunday, February 7, 2010

Emma aime ... Tamara de Lempicka

I was browsing all the gorgous items on Past times last night and came across the Tamara de Lempicka, Young Girl in Green Shopper I had never seen de Lempicka's work before and instantly fell in love with this image.
Tamara de Lempicka (May 16, 1898–March 18, 1980) was born Maria Gorska in Warsaw. Born into a wealthy family, her father was a lawyer and her mother a socialite. In 1913 at the age of 15 Tamara met the man she was determined to marry, a well-known ladies' man, gadabout, and lawyer by title - Tadeusz Łempicki. Tamara staged a campaign to win Tadeusz and they were married in 1916.
In 1917 during the Russian Revolution Tadeusz was arrested by the Bolsheviks. Maria searched the prisons, tracked him down and after several weeks secured his release. The couple fled to Paris where Tamaras family had also escaped.

In Paris, the Lempickas lived for a while from the sale of family jewels. Tadeusz proved unwilling or unable to find suitable work, which added to the domestic strain, while Maria gave birth to Kizette de Lempicka.

Tamara's artistic style developed quickly, influenced by a "soft cubism" style and her work epitomised the art deco movement. For her first major show, in Milan, Italy in 1925, under the sponsorship of Count Emmanuele Castelbarco, de Lempicka painted 28 new works in six months. She soon became the most fashionable portrait painter of her time.
In 1925, she painted her iconic work Auto-Portrait (Tamara in the Green Bugatti) for the cover of the German fashion magazine Die Dame. As summed up by the magazine Auto-Journal in 1974, "the self-portrait of Tamara de Lempicka is a real image of the independent woman who asserts herself. Her hands are gloved, she is helmeted, and inaccessible; a cold and disturbing beauty [through which] pierces a formidable being—this woman is free!" De Lempicka won her first major award in 1927, first prize at the Exposition Internationale de Beaux Arts in Bordeaux, France for her portrait of Kizette on the Balcony.

During the Roaring 20s Paris, Tamara de Lempicka was part of the bohemian life: she knew Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide. Famous for her libido, she was bisexual, and her affairs with both men and women were carried out in ways that were scandalous at the time. She often used formal and narrative elements in her portraits and nude studies to produce overpowering effects of desire and seduction. In the 1920s she became closely associated with lesbian and bisexual women in writing and artistic circles, such as Violet Trefusis, Vita Sackville-West, and Colette. She also became involved with Suzy Solidor, a night club singer at Boîte de Nuit, whom she later painted. Her husband eventually tired of their arrangement; he abandoned her in 1927, and they were divorced.Tamara became obbssesed with her work and neglected her daughter. When Kizette was not at boarding school she spent the majority of her time with her grandmother. However Tamara also imortalised Kizette in a number of paintings and in other painting the women show a likeness to Kizette. In 1928, her long time patron the Baron Raoul Kuffner visited her studio and commissioned her to paint his mistress. De Lempicka finished the portrait, then took the mistress' place in the Baron's life.

De Lempicka continued both her heavy workload and her frenetic social life through the next decade. The Great Depression had little effect on her. In the winter of 1939, Tamara and the Baron started an "extended vacation" in the United States. She immediately arranged for a show of her work in New York, though the Baron and Baroness chose to settle in Beverly Hills, California, living in the former residence of Hollywood director King Vidor. She became 'the baroness with a brush' and a favorite artist of Hollywood stars. In 1943, the couple relocated to New York City. Even though she continued to live in style, socializing continuously, her popularity as a society painter had diminished greatly.
After Baron Kuffner's death from a heart attack in 1962, she sold most of her possessions and made three around-the-world trips by ship. Finally De Lempicka moved to Houston, Texas to be with Kizette and her family. There she began her difficult and disagreeable later years. Kizette served as Tamara's business manager, social secretary, and factotum, and suffered under her mother's controlling domination and petulant behavior.

In 1978 Tamara moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to live among an aging international set and some of the younger aristocrats. After Kizette's husband died of cancer, she attended her mother for three months until Tamara died in her sleep on March 18, 1980. Her ashes were scattered over the volcano Popocatepetl by Count Giovanni Agusta.

De Lempicka lived long enough, however, for the wheel of fashion to turn a full circle: before she died a new generation discovered her art and greeted it with enthusiasm.
Tamaras work can be seen at tamara de
Biographical information from wikipedia


  1. I had seen the girl in the green dress before and other similar pictures, but had never taken the time to research who the artist was behind them...very interesting and informative post! Thank you :)

  2. You're welcome Miss Go Lightly! x