Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lempicka, Tamara de

La clé et l'oeuf
oil on canvasboard
27.8 x 21 cm
locaion unknown

In March 1939, Lempicka arrived in New York. After her last exhibition in Los Angeles, in 1941, the spread of war relegated such mundane events as opening receptions to the sidelines. Consequently, Lempicka withdrew to her country house in Connecticut. Here, she devoted herself to a series of still lifes comprised of commonplace objects, vegetables and fruits, affording her occasion to attain a state of peace far removed from the era's upheavals. She became less sharply precise, attending more to the solidity of her compositions, and using skilfully gradated contours to build up rounded volumes, which nonetheless retain their fullness.

"I liked to go out in the evenings and have a good-looking man tell me how beautiful I am or how great an artist I am." (Lempicka)

Tamara de Lempicka (1898 - 1980), born in Moscow, in the Russian Empire, was a Polish Art Deco painter and "the first woman artist to be a glamour star." She took advantage of the growing interest in women who were entering the arts following the First World War, and indeed, she strongly believed that she stood out among them. She wrote, "I was the first woman who did clear painting---and that was the success of my painting. Among a hundred paintings, you could recognize mine. And the galleries began to put me in the best rooms, always in the center, because my painting attracted people. It was neat, it was finished".

She is best known for her Art Deco-styled portraits. Sexy, bedroom-eyed women in stylish dress are rendered in haunting poses. Perhaps it was her own dramatic life mirrored in her art. Married twice to wealthy, she moved from her native Poland to Russia, and then to Paris. In 1925 she exhibited her works at the first Art Deco show in Paris. She moved to America in 1939 with her second husband. Her works appeared exclusively at many galleries and museums, but her artistic output decreased. In 1960 she changed her style to abstract art and began creating works with a spatula. After her husband died in 1962 she ceased painting and moved to Mexico permanently, buying a beautiful house in Cuernavaca, built by a Japanese architect.
She despaired of growing old and in her last years sought the company of young people. She mourned at the loss of her beauty and was cantankerous to the end. She died in her sleep on March 18, 1980 with her daughter at her side. Her wish to be cremated and have her ashes spread on the top of the volcano Popocatepetl was carried out.
American singer-songwriter Madonna is a huge fan and collector of her work.