Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka, 1898-1980

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. 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.

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Tamara de Lempicka, Self Portrait, Tamara in a Green Bugatti, 1926, oil on board, 35 x 27 cm, Private Collection

Commissioned by the German fashion magazine ‘Die Dame for the cover of the magazine, to celebrate the independence of women. It is one of the most best-known examples of Art Deco portrait painting. Incidentally, Tamara never owned a Bugatti.

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Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait de Tadeusz de Lempicki, 1928, oil on canvas

A portrait of her first husband

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Tamara de Lempicka, Kizette on the Balcony, 1927, oil on canvas

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Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait d’une Jeune Fille, 1929, oil on board, 27 x 22 cm, Private Collection

Although Tamara painted her daughter Kizette on numerous occasions, she neglected her throughout her childhood. When she became ill, Kizette came to live with her and cared for her until her death.

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Tamara de Lempicka, Andromeda, 1928, oil on canvas, Private Collection

She was notoriously bisexual and promiscuous

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Tamara de Lempicka, The Girls, 1928, oil on canvas

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Tamara de Lempicka, La musicienne, 1929, oil on canvas, 116 x 73 cm, Private Collection

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Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of Dr Boucard, 1931, oil on canvas

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Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of Mme Boucard, 1931, oil on canvas

Many of her paintings, including all except the first here, show a cubist style cityscape in the background

BT, 6 March, Meeting No 12

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