Tamara de Lempicka: The Art Deco Diva's 5 Most Vivid Works
A student of the bohemian Left Bank, Lempicka excelled at a sensual style.
Tamara de Lempicka, known as the “Baroness with a Brush,” was renowned for her bold, art deco style; a canvas-bound depiction of the Roaring Twenties. On what would have been her 120th birthday Wednesday, Google honored the famous painter with a commemorative doodle on its homepage.
Born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1898, Lempicka moved to Russia as a teenager after falling in love with a prominent lawyer in Saint Petersburg. They married, but when the Russian Revolution upended their aristocratic life, the couple fled Saint Petersburg, eventually landing in Paris. It was there that Lempicka had a daughter and began painting as a way to support the family, which had lost everything in their relocation.
Under the influence of her artistic trainers, especially the French cubist painter André Lhote, Lempicka’s style blended cubism with neoclassicism. She quickly came to prominence in the bohemian Parisian art scene of the Left Bank, choosing often for her subject matter the female identity of confidence and sexuality that was so exemplified in the decadence of the interwar period. Here are a few of her best works:
Self-Portrait, “Tamara in the Green Bugatti,” 1929
Created as a cover image for the German fashion magazine Die Dame, this painting is Lempicka’s most famous and oft-reproduced work. It depicts the artist herself lounging comfortably in an emerald green sports car. The image was defined by the magazine as “a symbol of women’s liberation,” with its aggressive confidence mixed with unabashed luxury.
“Women Bathing,” 1929
Mostly known for her portraiture style and depictions of the bourgeoisie, Lempicka was also known for nude works. The sensual “Women Bathing,” also from 1929, depicts the sexually liberal lifestyle of the Left Bank. Lempicka, who was bisexual, took many lovers, including patrons and painting models alike.
“Kizette on the Balcony,” 1927
Especially in the early days of her painting career, Lempicka often used her daughter, Kizette, as her subject. “Kizette on the Balcony” won Lempicka her first major award, the first prize at the 1927 Exposition Internationale des Beaux Arts in Bordeaux, France.
“Young Lady With Gloves,” 1930
A painting depicting a less hard edge of femininity than “Tamara in the Green Bugatti,” “Young Lady With Gloves” still boasts a confident, boldly dressed woman in a soft cubic style.
“Portrait of a Man or Mr Tadeusz de Lempicki” (1928)
This portrait of Lempicka’s first husband shows a dark and moody figure of sophistication. Arriving in Paris with no worldly possessions and a new child, her painting depicts an apparently stern and handsome partner, whom Lempicka separated from in 1928.