Tamara de Lempicka: The Queen of Modern Art
As lover of the novel The Great Gatsby, I imagine a roaring 20’s setting with lots of glitz, glam, champagne, and Art Deco artwork. Nothing makes me think of a classier time in world history than the 1920’s. A post-WWI era emerged with a flash and a bang of glitter as a good portion of the world prospered. This was the beginning of a new era in the art scene and the rise of a new artist named Tamara de Lempicka. Her artwork would greatly influence the Art Deco movement and bring an empowering light upon women artists.
Born in Poland, and raised in primarily in Russia and Switzerland, Lempicka was born with a silver spoon in her mouth. After falling in love with the Great Masters of Italian painting while visiting her grandmother in Italy, her path upon becoming an artist was set in motion. She got her first taste of Art Deco artwork when her sister, the famous designer and architect Adrienne Gorska, designed the interior of her Paris apartment in this style. Lempicka was no stranger to the paintbrush, but at this time her art style rapidly began to develop into the novel, clean, precise, and elegant works we know today.
Her first solo art show was in Milan, Italy consisting of 28 paintings that were completed in a 6 month span. That’s really impressive considering the caliber of her work and the quantity of paintings done in such a short span of time. Her work was so well known, and so sought after, that the price for requesting a custom painted portrait would cost a whopping $20,000 per painting in today’s economy! Her work focused mainly on portraiture of people she knew, varying from her daughter Kisette, to self-portraits, to lovers. Despite being married, Lempicka was known to have scandalous affairs with many men and women, many of whom she would have posed nude for her paintings. The fact that these affairs were public knowledge did not seem to deter her or even seem to shed much negativity on her success. She was a self-absorbed woman who was more into her photo-shoots, painting, and bohemian lifestyle, than paying attention to her daughter. Kisette spent most of her time with her grandmother or away at boarding school. Nevertheless, there must have been some touch of motherly love that was only expressed through the numerous paintings that Lempicka completed of her daughter.
Lempicka’s work was shown in many countries, including the US, but she spent most of her time traveling around Europe painting lords, ladies, barons and the like. This kept her mostly untouched when the Great Depression hit in the 1930’s, as she was still painting these noble figures in other countries. She continued painting in to the late 1970’s when she retired for good, because she believed the paints used and artwork being created was inferior to her “glory days” of Art Deco painting. However, before her passing in the 1980’s, people were again discovering her work and praising it. She died peacefully in Mexico after being reunited with her daughter. A happy ending to a fully lived life.
Tamara de Lempicka’s artwork is collected by many famous people such as Madonna, Jack Nicholson, and Barbra Streisand and has been sold in auctions for millions of dollars.
Her other works that have not been collected are on tour all over the world. In 2015, her work is currently being shown in Turin, Italy. Unfortunately, there has not been any plans announced for the work to be exhibited in the United States, but keep checking the website to see where her work will be shown next!
Inspired by Tamara de Lempicka
With the influx of contemporary decor, I’ve noticed that elements of the Art Deco style are returning to room designs and architecture. What I love best about these room scenes is that they all have their own flair to them. I especially love the digitized replica of Lempicka’s art above the fireplace. Who needs a mantle when you can have a gigantic painting from Lempicka adorning your living room wall?
Now, the color scheme varies A LOT when it comes to Art Deco. The color doesn’t seem to matter so long as the shade of the color is vivid. Lempicka used a lot of blues, greens, reds, and neutrals in her work. Since her subject matter was mainly portraiture, the greatest color variation was in the clothing that was worn (or the backdrop for her nudes). I particularly love this painting of Young Lady with Gloves, as the earthy tones of the greens and browns really meld the piece together. Plus, I am obsessed with the way the hair is painted. It looks almost like ribbons, but softer in the contours. I absolutely love how the Art Deco straight lines and geometric shapes are so apparent in her work, yet there is still a softness to the figures depicted.
Lempicka’s art style was undoubtedly modern for it’s time. With this in mind, I was inclined to pull elements from 2015 Contemporary decor to play with the Art Deco decor of the 1920’s. The biggest similarity between these two styles is clean lines and geometric designs. Both Contemporary and Art Deco styles use geometric squares, cones, and spheres make up the bulk of the subject matter. The differences are in the empty spaces. Contemporary design keeps extraneous designs to a minimum, while Art Deco design can have intricate patterns and filigrees. This is most evident in Art Deco architecture. My room design of choice is very particular for this post. I was inspired by Lempicka’s love of the social life, so a bar room was the only choice! The liquor cabinet is designed of squares, just as the above chandelier. I could imagine pouring myself a Bee’s Knees, freshly shaken from my zeppelin cocktail shaker (Yes! That rocket looking thing is a cocktail shaker!) on my mirrored serving tray, and sitting in my faux leather chair admiring a newly painted portrait from Lempicka as time ticks away. The finish touch? The flooring behind these elements is Elesgo Super Gloss Black laminate flooring. I chose it because the high mirror shine of this floor reminds me of the polished marble floors that were featured in 1920’s mansions, but definitely contemporary!
Now the real challenge. Can you tell which from the above decor is Art Deco and which is Contemporary design? Give me your answers in the comments below!