Tamara Lempicka famous art Deco Painter

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Tamara Lempicka, “Baroness with a Brush.”

Tamara Lempicka famous Art Deco painter was born Tamara Rozalia Gunrwik-Gorska in Warsaw, Poland, on May 16, 1898, to a Jewish lawyer father and a socialite mother. Her parent was divorced in 1912. At fourteen, she was sent to her wealthy grandmother before being sent to Lauzon, Switzerland, in boarding school. During her summer breaks, she spent time with her aunt and uncle, prominent bankers in St Petersburg. Tamra left her boarding school protecting poor health; she studied at the St Petersburg Imperial Academy of Arts.

She met her future husband, a Jewish Polish Lawyer, Tadeusz Lempicki at the age of 15 years old during an evening at the opera. One year later they married in the chapel of the knights of Malta in St Petersburg, her uncle endowing a large dowry. During the Russian Revolution, Tadeusz was arrested; with her effort and connection to the Swedish consult, she secured his release; shortly after his release, they booked a flight to California. In 1919, Tamara gave birth to daughter Maria Krystyna also known as Kizette; having left all their fortune behind, they lived for a while with the sale of family jewels.

Tamara enrolled at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere at the height of post-Cubist experimentation. She trained with Maurice Denis and Andre Lhote. She sold her first paintings through the Galerie Colette-Weil. She then exhibited at the Salon des Independents and the Salon D’automne in 1922. Her big break came in 1925 at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Art, giving its name to the movement “Art Deco.” That year she had her first solo Exhibition in Milan sponsored by count Emmanuele Castelbarco. During her rise, Tamara was in all the prominent Avant Guarde post-war Paris social gatherings meeting celebrities like Andre Gide, Pablo Picasso, Colette, and Jean Cocteau.

Tamara Lempicka Glamorous and Free Spirit.

Tamara declared herself a free spirit and was an open bisexual while still married. She changes her name from Lempicki to de Lempicka. A good number of her sexual partners were her patrons and models, including La Belle Rafaela, Violet TrefusisVita Sackville-West, and Colette. She also became involved with Suzy Solidor, a nightclub singer at the Boîte de Nuit. In 1925 she painted Four Nudes women, reminiscent of the “Nude Bathers” of Inkgres’s 1862 painting “Turkish Baths.” The painting is of several women feeling the canvas exudes eroticism and robust femininity. Indeed, as a female painter representing the female nude, the result is a kind of egalitarian voyeurism.

In 1927 de Lempicka received first prize at the Exposition international des Beaux-Arts of Bordeaux for her painting “Kizette on the Balcony.” another portrait of Kizette at her First Communion won a bronze medal at the international exposition in Poznań, Poland.

“My goal was never to copy, but to create a new style, bright, luminous colors, and to scent out the elegance in my models.” Tamara de Lempicka.

In 1928, tired of her open affairs, her husband asked for a divorce. In 1929, she met Raoul Kuffner, a wealthy Baron of the former Austro-Hungarian empire. Kuffner commissioned a portrait of her mistress Nana de Herrera, and soon after Tamara replaced Nana Herrera as Kuffner’s mistress. The same year she painted her iconic work auto portrait known as “Tamara in the Green Bugatti” for the cover of the german fashion magazine Die Dame.

She was commissioned by Rufus Bush and Dr. Pierre Boucard for their portraits. Tamara’s stylized and sensual portraits are tributes to the jazz- and flapper-age culture. She had an exhibit at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. De Lempicka’s heavy workload and frenetic social life continued throughout the next decade. Museums began collecting her works, and she painted King Afonso XIII of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of Greece. In 1933 she also had her show in Chicago with O’Keeffe and Willem de Kooning at the World’s fair.

Tamara at the Zenit of her Fame

Tamara married Baron Kuffner on February 3, 1934, a year after his wife died. Hitler was gaining power in Germany; having escaped the Russian revolution by leaving all her fortune behind but some jewelry, she convinced her husband to sell his estates and moved all his fortune to Switzerland. In 1939 seeing the inevitable war to come, the couple moved to California. Hollywood adopted Tamara as their favorite artist, calling her the baroness with a brush. In 1943 she moved to New York.

Tamara Lempicka was one of the best-known painters of the Art Deco style. This group included Jean Dupas, Diego Rivera, Josep Maria Sert, Reginald Marsh, and Rockwell Kent. Still, unlike these artists, who often painted large murals with crowds of subjects, she focused almost exclusively on portraits. Her style was a mixture of late, refined cubism and the neoclassical style.

Ingres inspires Lempicka’s technique; clean, precise, and elegant but simultaneously charged with sensuality and a suggestion of vice. The cubist elements of her paintings were usually in the background. The dominant features of her paintings were the skin textures and bright fabrics worn by her subjects; in the mid-1940, post-war modernism and abstract expressionism were what collectors wanted. Tamara experimented with still life and began to use a palette knife to move with the wave of the new movement.

Tamara is not credible with her New Subjects or Style.

She painted several Madonnas and turbaned women inspired by Renaissance paintings and mournful subjects such as The Mother Superior (1935) and Escape (1940), which depicts refugees. Art historian Gilles Néret wrote, “The baroness’s more ‘virtuous’ subjects are, it must be said, lacking in conviction when compared with the sophisticated and gallant works on which her former glory had been founded.” Lempicka introduced elements of Surrealism in paintings such as Surrealist Hand (c. 1947) and some of her still lifes, such as The Key (1946). Between 1953 and the early 1960s, Lempicka painted hard-edged abstractions that bear a stylistic similarity to the Purism of the 1920s but she never got the success of her Art Deco period.

Tamara is Baroness Portraitist of the Art Deco Portraitist for Generation to Come.

In November 1961, her husband died of a heart attack; the following year, she held an exhibition of her work in Paris which critics poorly received. She decided not to exhibit her work again. In 1963 she moved to Houston, Texas to be closer to her daughter Kizette. In 1966 the Museum of Decorative Arts created a commemorative exhibit in Paris called “The 25 years.” its success revived interest in Art Deco. Alain Blondel opened the Galerie du Luxembourg and exhibited a major retrospective of Tamara’s work. In 1978 Tamara moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico. Tamara de Lempicka died in her sleep on March 18, 1980, in Cuernavaca; her ashes were scattered over the volcano Popocatépetl.


Final word

Tamara Lempicka was a socialite who painted portraits in luxuriously vibrant, stylized technics. Her subjects are close up and beautiful. She was known and famous for her style, but later in life, when she tried to change it and jump on the bandwagon of the new movements, the baroness with a brush painting “refugee” was not taken seriously. Tamara Lempicka is the name of an era; today, she is appreciated by every generation; her images are in private collections, galleries, and museums. Her legacy continues.