Painter born in Poland in 1898. Moved to Paris in 1918 together with her first husband Tadeusz de Lempicki to study art.

By 1925 she had made a name for herself with a number of portrait s in her typical cubistic style, rendering her subjects as aggregates of geometric primitives, somewhat similar to modern computer-generated, NURBS-based graphics.

In 1939, Tamara moved to the US, the centre of modern art at the time, with her second husband, Baron Raoul Kuffner, to reach a larger audience and to find new inspiration.

Whilst the move to the US did further her career, her artistic output was decreasing, and after a brief unproductive period her works became more abstract and landscape s replaced the portraits as her most common motif.

Tamara de Lempicka died in 1980.
Some of her most popular works include:

  • Autoritratto, or Tamara in the Green Bugatti
  • Portrait of a Man, an incomplete portrait of her first husband Tadeusz de Lempicki.

When most people think about the 1920s, they think of great music, prohibition, famous gangsters, and Art Deco, just to name a few.  There were many artists painting in the Art Deco style in the 1920s, one of the more famous artists was Tamara de Lempicka. 

In the book titled "Tamara de Lempicka : A Life of Deco and Decadence" Author Laura Claridge says this about Tamara:

"Nothing ever really cramped her style or her dedication to art. She died in 1980, a venerable survivor still looking forward rather than back. Blending art history with psychological analysis."

She was born with the name Maria Gorska in 1898, in Poland to very wealthy parents.  When Tamara's parents divorced each other, her very wealthy grandmother took her in and spoiled her by giving her lavish clothing, and paying for her extensive travels.

In 1912, at the age of 14, Tamara was living in Luasanne, Switzerland, where she was attending art school.  Tamara spent her vacations at her Aunt Stephanie's mansion in St. Petersburg.  Her mansion had been decorated by the famous French decorating firm Maison Jansen.  This was a very exclusive firm that only the very wealthy could afford and Tamara's Aunt Stephanie was married to a millionaire banker, so money was no object.

In 1917, Tamara married Tadeusz de Lempicki and they soon had to flee from Russia to escape the Revolution of 1917.  In 1918, Tamara and her husband arrived in Paris where she studied art at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, located in Montparnasse for a brief time before she studied under Maurice Denis at the Académie Ranson and also studied under Andre Lhote.  Tamara took much of her own style from Andre Lhote, whose theories of composition and delicate brushstrokes inspired Tamara.

It is in Paris that Tamara's art career began to flourish and she became a mother when her daughter Kizette de Lempicka was born.  Tamara was a well known portrait painter who had a distinct Art Deco manner in many of her paintings.  Her paintings were described by many of her contemporaries as exotic, glamorous and sexy.  She received many commissions to create portraits of people such as:

  • entertainers
  • writers
  • aristocrats
  • other artists
  • many of Europe's nobility

Tamara's daughter, Kizette, wrote a biography about her mother entitled "Tamara de Lempicka, Passion by Design".  She had this to say about Tamara:

"She painted them all, the rich, the successful, the renowned --the best.  And with many she also slept.  The work brought her critical acclaim, social celebrit and considerable wealth."

In 1939, after her divorce and with the threat of World War II brewing, Tamara moved to America.  She lived in Hollywood, where she quickly became known as the favorite artist to many of Hollywood's brightest stars.  Tamara married Baron Raoul Kuffner, who was one of her most wealthy clients and they purchased the famous film director King Vidor's mansion located in Beverly Hills, where they lived until 1943.

Tamara and her husband moved to New York City in late 1943, where they lived in one of the city's most elegant apartments.  This two story apartment was home to Tamara's North Light Studio, where she continued painting in her Art Deco style for several years.  Tamara decorated the apartment with many Hungarian antiques that the Baron had rescued from his Hungarian estate.

After World War II was over, Tamara reopened her once famous studio in Paris, which she had decorated in the rococo style.  Many of her friends in New York hired Tamara to decorate their apartments with her unique style.

In 1962, Tamara's husband died and she moved to Houston, Texas so she could be closer to her daughter, Kizette.  While living in Houston, Tamara's style of painting changed slightly.  She began to paint using a palette knife.  This style of painting was very popular during the 1960s.  Also in 1962, she began to exhibit many of her newest paintings at the Iolas Gallery in New York.  The art critics did not care for her paintings and there were not many buyers.  This is when Tamara swore that she would never exhibit her artwork again.

The arrival of abstract expressionism style of painting along with Tamara's age almost halted her art career in the mid 1960s.  However, she continued to paint even though her work was ignored.  Tamara stored the paintings in her attic and at a warehouse that she had rented storage place from.

The Musee des Arts Decoratifs, located in Paris launched a commemorative exhibition in 1966, called "Les Annees '25".  The success of this exhibition created the first truly serious interest in Art Deco.  After visiting this exhibit, Alain Blondel opened the Galerie du Luxembourg, where he held a major retrospective of Tamara. 

This was a major revelation to the art world and was followed by an exhibition of Tamara's works at the Knoedler Gallery, located in New York City.  Tamara was not happy with how her artwork was being displayed and made many demands on how she thought the exhibition should be.  This caused the curator of the Knoedler Gallery to close Tamara's exhibition.

As Art Deco became popular again, Tamara regained popularity.  In late 1978, Tamara moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico, and bought a beautiful house.  As the years went by, Tamara fell into a deep depression over the loss of her beauty and she sought the company of young artists trying to make herself feel young again.

On March 18, 1980, with Kizette at her bedside, Tamara passed away in her sleep leaving behind a long and wonderful life and art career.  Her final wish was to be cremated and have her ashes spread on top of the volcano Popocatepetl in Mexico.

You can view many of Tamara's paintings at http://www.goodart.org/artoftdl.htm


riverrun says

"A wonderful play was performed here in LA for many years, called "Tamara." It was staged in a huge building and the audience could walk from room to room, following whatever strand of the story they desired. I went to see it perhaps a dozen times, and each performance was totally different. There was a sumptuous lunch during the intermission, with wine. Truly great theatre fun!"
Timeshredder says
"Tamara has also been successfully staged a couple of times in Toronto. Fascinating experience."


Sources:
Women Artists. 1st ed. : Ruggio Publishing, 1977
http://www.goodart.org/artoftdl.htm
http://www.royalacademy.org.uk
http://www.mystudios.com
http://www.tragsnart.co.uk
http://www.fact-index.com
http://www.glbtq.com
http://cgfa.sunsite.dk

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