Tamara de Lempicka
May 16 1898 - March 18 1980
Photograph of Tamara de Lempicka, ca. 1935, by M. Camuzzi, courtesy of Museum Masters International. (c) Tamara Art Heritage/MMI, New York, NY, USA
Place of Birth:
tah-MAH-rah deh lehm-PEE-tskah
Figure Painter, Oil Painter, Portraitist
Although there is some discrepancy regarding her place of birth, Tamara de Lempicka claimed to have been born in Warsaw, Poland in 1898. Growing up in a wealthy family, she traveled to Italy with her grandmother in 1911 where she visited museums and developed a particular interest in the Renaissance masters. In 1914, after war was declared in Poland, she moved to Russia where she lived with her aunt. She attended St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Fine Arts and was trained in a variety of styles. She married Count Tadeusz de Lempicka when she was eighteen years old, and during the Bolshevik revolution fled with her husband and infant daughter to France.
In Paris, Lempicka continued studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière where she met André Lhote whose modified Cubist style began to influence Lempicka’s work. She began painting portraits of celebrities and aristocrats with strong features and showing her work at the Salon d’Automne and Salon des Tuileries. Her restricted palette and streamlined form of Cubism were well received, and Lempicka’s work was praised for its Art Deco sensibilities. Lempicka’s images captured the decadence of the 1920s. After her first marriage deteriorated with accusations of her affairs with other men and women, she divorced and in 1933 married Baron Raoul Kuffner. They moved to Beverly Hills where Lempicka became a Hollywood socialite.
After World War II, her paintings were no longer as fashionable as they had been in the 1920s and 1930s. Her work was criticized for its cold yet erotic portrayals that represented an empty vision of beauty. As the art world became interested in more intellectual art during the 1950s and 1960s, Lempicka struggled with rejection and began painting less. Although she privately attempted to paint abstractly, she was unsuccessful.
After her husband’s death, Lempicka moved to Houston, Texas in 1962 to be near her daughter. Her bold artistic presence of the ’20s and ’30s was almost entirely forgotten until a 1972 retrospective at the Galerie du Luxembourg created a resurgence of interest in her work. She spent her final two years in Cuernavaca, Mexico where she died in 1980.
Place(s) of Residence:
Place(s) of Activity:
Académie Ranson, Paris, France (1920)
Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, France (1920)
St. Petersburg State Academic Institute of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Russia (1914)
Related Visual Artists:
student of Maurice Denis
student of André Lhote
influenced by Fernand Léger
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Bronze Medal, Polish International Exhibition, Poznán, Poland (1929)
First Prize, Exposition Internationale, Bordeaux, France (1927)
Le Salon d’Automne, Paris, France (1922)
Voices of Freedom: Polish Women Artists and The Avant-Garde, 1880-1990
Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon, Royal Academy of Arts, London, England (2004) and the Kunstforum Wien, Vienna, Austria (2004-2005)
Tamara de Lempicka, Symbol of Elegance and Transgression, Villa Medici, Rome, Italy and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, Canada (1994)
Tamara de Lempicka de 1925 à 1935, Galerie du Luxembourg, Paris, France (1972)