Tuesday 8th March marks International Women’s Day, so I thought I’d post a throwback to A-level and one of my favourite female painters:
Tamara de Lempicka was a Polish Art Deco painter famous for her angular, clear style
portraits of glamorous women in elegant, fashionable clothes. She was born in Warsaw, Poland to a wealthy family in 1898 to a lawyer and socialite- which is probably where Lempicka got her elegant style and rich tastes.
She found her love of fine art in Italy in 1911 where she spent her time with her grandmother. In 1912 she moved to Russia to live with her rich uncle as her parents had divorced. When she turned 15 she found the man she wanted to marry while she was at the opera and used her uncle’s connections to marry him. In 1917 she eventually escaped to Paris, along with her husband, during the Russian Revolution.
Lempicka developed her style through the Art Deco movement. She prefer
red the clean, sharp nature of this style compared to abstract artists and impressionists who used “dirty” colours. Instead she created her own unique niche in the Art Deco movement in which she chose to paint women, emphasising their sexuality, elegance and beauty.
Her portraits convey the luxury and fashion of the Roaring 20s, with women in fashionable clothes and make up which, until that decade, were considered risqué and improper. The women are usually depicted in their twenties and thirties, the height of their beauty and sensuality.
During her late 20s she had her first art exhibition in Milan after finding sponsorship. This was part of her breakthrough which recognised her portraits of the female form as fashionable and Avant garde. This breakthrough was the start of a career which brought her access to rich socialites and duchesses who commissioned their portraits and allowed her to display her art in many famous venues. Many of these portraits resemble her daughter (such as Young Lady with Gloves) whom she neglected; these representations may echo her guilty conscience, however she also purposefully created many portraits of her daughter, Kizette de Lempicka, showing that she did care after all.
Her portraits, like artists such as Kahlo, express her bisexuality and libido as she was well known for her outrageous affairs. She expressed her extreme desire through her studies of nudes, particularly focusing on femininity and the female form only occasionally depicting the male form. The composition and passion of these portraits make her lust very clear with passionate scenes with multiple naked forms. Her nudes represented her lovers and love of seduction which later led to her divorce from her husband.
Her first visit to America occurred in 1929 with Baron Raoul Kuffner von Dioszeg, who she later married in 1934, where she painted portraits for Rufus Bush. She lost her money from her exhibition in Pittsburgh in the Stock Market Crash of 1929, however she was mostly unaffected by the Great Depression, this is largely down to high demand for her portraits and her high social status as a Baroness that came with her marriage to Dioszeg. Nobles such as Queen Elizabeth of Greece commissioned her work and renowned artists such as O’Keffe wanted to work with her. Her artwork evolved into portraits of saints and refugees with the coming of World War II but remained mostly unchanged, keeping with her Art Deco style and depictions of grandees.