When you think of the term cubism which artists come to mind? Perhaps you think of Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, or the father of Cubism Paul Cézanne. Or do other names arise of painters who were influenced my cubism: Franz Marc, Fernand Léger, Marcel Duchamp? Do you ever associate the name Tamara de Lempicka with this group? I had not until about six years ago when the photographer Tim Anderson introduced me to her work. As a matter of fact I don’t think that I had ever heard of her until then. All of the other names mentioned above were men. I am sure that had nothing to do with her obscurity, although she is basically a footnote, if she’s mentioned at all, in the major art textbooks, art history classes or discussions about modern art. Yet, her work is featured in permanent collections of museums and galleries around the world.
Tamara De Lempicka was born Maria Górskain 1898 in Poland. She knew that she wanted to be an artist as a child. In 1916 she married Tadeusz Łempicki, a Russian lawyer. In1918, she studied painting at the Academe de la Grand Chaumiere in Paris. In 1925 she exhibited her works at the first Art Deco show in Paris. She was known as a great beauty, an aristocratic refugee of the Russian Revolution, and a frankly erotic painter who insisted upon Renaissance aesthetics, figuration, and painterly craft in modern art.
I find her work to be very intriguing. When I look at one of her paintings such as Young Lady with Gloves, the influence of cubism, the stark clean lines of her composition and the striking green that she choose for the dress compel me to want to study how she approached her art. I like the dissimilar size of the arms and what that might represent. Also, there is no question about the location of the light source in her paintings. Lempicka’s intention to express sensuality is clearly seen in most of her work. Her love of mannerism and gesture is evident in her paintings.
“If there is a single image that encapsulates art deco, it is Tamara de Lempicka’s self-portrait ‘Tamara in the Green Bugatti.’ It was commissioned for the cover of the German magazine Die Dame, which defined her as ‘a symbol of women’s liberation.’ The tight, post-cubist composition of the painting; the muted, sophisticated colour; the sense of speed and glamour; her blonde curl edging out of the head-hugging Hermès helmet; her long leather driving gauntlets; her lubricious red lips. Clearly this is a woman who means business.” (Fiona MacCarthy, The Guardian, Friday 14 May 2004)
What do you think of the work of Tamara de Lempicka? Had you heard of her before?