16 May Happy Birthday Blog: Tamara de Lempicka
Tamara de Lempicka
Born: May 16, 1898
Known For: Art Deco painter
Tamara de Lempicka lived a fascinating life, one that a short blog cannot hope to do justice to. Much like every other historical field, art history is dominated by stories of its famous male painters. Most people can name Picasso, Van Gogh, or Michaelangelo, without ever having heard of O’Keeffe, Cassatt, or Gentileschi. In our attempts to highlight lesser known women in history, we definitely wanted to include women artists.
Lempicka is one of the more well-known and famous women artists of the 20th century. She spent much of her early painting career in France, where in between the two World Wars she developed her unique style of Art Deco portrait painting. Most other Art Deco artists worked on much larger scales, and are known for their complex murals. Yet, Lempicka reduced that style to intimate portraits of her daughter, European aristocrats, and her lovers (both men and women).
She had two marriages. The second, to Baron Kuffner in 1934, eventually brought to the US to escape World War II. Her most famous painting is a self-portrait called “Autoportrait” (see left) that she produced in 1929 for the German fashion magazine “Die Dame” which held an issue to celebrate the liberation of women.
Lempicka best described her own work in speaking to her daughter: “I was the first woman to make clear paintings and that was the origin of my success. Among a hundred canvases, mine were always recognizable. The galleries tended to show my pictures in the best rooms, because they attracted people. My work was clear and finished. I looked around me and could only see the total destruction of painting. The banality in which art had sunk gave me a feeling of disgust. I was searching for a craft that no longer existed; I worked quickly with a delicate brush. I was in search of technique, craft, simplicity and good taste. My goal: never copy. Create a new style, with luminous and brilliant colors, rediscover the elegance of my models.”
Her paintings gained renewed attention with a resurgence in appreciation for Art Deco in the 1960s. She eventually moved to Mexico and died there in 1980. Her work is still very popular with several celebrities. Most famously Madonna is a serious collector, and Tamara’s works have shown up in several of her music videos.
For her contribution to art history, The Good Doctors wish her a very happy birthday!
Learn more about Tamara here.