Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980) is my favorite artist of the Art Deco period. I never got this far in my Art History classes, so after doing a little research I found she is one of the most famous painters of this era and her work is well recognized in the art world. Art Deco spanned from 1920-1939 and can often be classified by geometric motifs, bright, bold colors and defined outlines. This popular design was seen as elegant and modern and drew its style inspiration from such serious art movements as Cubism and Futurism.

Like most artists of this style, de Lempicka's works reflected the time period and movement she took to and what she was most interested in: artifice, affluence, ornamentation, and superficiality that bordered on surreal. She was always a stand out in her personal style and demeanor and captured her liberation and zest for life in the self portrait "Self Portrait in the Green Bugatti" (1925). Her figurative portraits consisted of decadent, stylish and if I may add, rubenesque women immersed in the new found freedom and sexuality of the roaring 20's and glamourous 30's.

de Lempicka was born in Poland and later started her career in Paris where she became part of the bohemian culture. Apparently, she led a scandalous life; physical and emotional seductive elements to which she incorporated in her art. She was beautiful and uninhibited and capitolized on that. Ah~ what one does for one's art! She worked through the Depression and after WW2 went to Hollywood where she was wildly popular- no doubt partly due to her wealthy second husband's influence over the cafe society set- and set up house in director King Vidor's old digs in Beverly Hills, and much later retiring to Mexico.

I'm not sure why I am drawn to her distinctive portraits with their deep set haunting eyes. With the use of black and white (for shade and contour) and the almost three dimensional use of vibrant color, I think that they resemble stained glass windows! So elegant. Everything seems to be slightly exagerated without being overdrawn and avant garde. How can something that looks so elementary actually be socially and politically relevant? Even today it seems so modern. Her work was admired by the wealthy, but the bourgeois found her slightly arrogant. You may recognize her paintings as they are highly sought after and some of the best examples of the Art Deco era.

Here are some of my favorites!

"The Young Girl"
"Woman in Blue with Guitar" (Femme a Guitare) 1929
"Portrait of a Young Girl in a Green Dress" (Young Girl With Gloves) 1929
"Portrait of Ira P. "(Portrait de Madame P.) 1933
"La Convalescente"
"Self Portrait in the Green Bugatti" (Auto-Portrait) 1925
"The Green Turban" 1930
"Dormeuse" 1931


She-ra said...

Lovely Tamara. I adore her work!

I also love the Old Hollywood Glamour. Huge fan, really.


Hels said...

I also think she was a terrific artist. I particularly loved the sentence "Her figurative portraits consisted of decadent, stylish and rubenesque women immersed in the new found freedom and sexuality of the roaring 20's and glamourous 30's".

Her paintings were indeed elegant (and homo erotic). But do we know whether her female sitters were famous society women, or simply her friends? Were the dresses fashionable at the time, or was she harking back to some romantic era in the past?