Popocatépetl, State of Mexico, Mexico
Tamara Łempicka (born Maria Górska; 16 May 1898 – 18 March 1980), also known as Tamara de Lempicka, was a Polish painter active in the 1920s and 1930s, who spent her working life in France and the United States. She is best known for her polished Art-Deco portraits of aristocrats and the wealthy, and for her highly stylized paintings of nudes.
Born in Warsaw, Lempicka briefly moved to Saint Petersburg where she married a prominent Polish lawyer, then travelled to Paris. She studied painting with Maurice Denis and André Lhote. Her style was a blend of late, refined cubism and the neoclassical style, particularly inspired by the work of Jean-Dominique Ingres. She was an active participant in the artistic and social life of Paris between the Wars. In 1928 she became the mistress of wealthy art collector from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Baron Raoul Kuffner.
In 1933 Tamara de Lempicka traveled to Chicago where she worked with Georgia O'Keeffe, Santiago Martinez Delgado and Willem de Kooning.
After the death of his wife in 1933, the Baron married Lempicka in 1934, and thereafter she became known in the press as "The Baroness with a Brush."
Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, she and her husband moved to the United States and she painted celebrity portraits, as well as still-lifes and, in the 1960s, some abstract paintings. Her work was out of fashion after World War II, but made a comeback in the late 1960s, with the rediscovery of Art Deco. She moved to Mexico in 1974, where she died in 1980. At her request, her ashes were scattered over the Popocatapetl volcano.
She placed high value on working to produce her own fortune, famously saying "There are no miracles, there is only what you make." de Lempicka took this personal success and created a hedonistic lifestyle for herself, accompanied by intense love affairs within high society.
Famous for her libido, she was bisexual. Her affairs with both men and women were conducted in ways that were considered scandalous at the time. She often used formal and narrative elements in her portraits, and her nude studies produced 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 the Boîte de Nuit, whose portrait she later painted.
Kizette rarely saw her mother, but was immortalized in her paintings. Lempicka painted her only child repeatedly, leaving a striking portrait series: Kizette in Pink, 1926; Kizette on the Balcony, 1927; Kizette Sleeping, 1934; Portrait of Baroness Kizette, 1954–1955, etc. In other paintings, the women depicted tend to resemble Kizette. In 1927, she won first prize at the Exposition Internationale des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux for a painting of her daughter entitled Kizette on the Balcony. Four years later, she would win a bronze medal at the Exposition Internationale in Poznan, Poland, for another portrait of her daughter, Kizette's First Communion.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
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