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Tamara de Lempicka : The Gorgeous Life and Works of Polish Painter

Who is Tamara de Lempicka?

Tamara de Lempicka, who was born Tamaria Rozalia Gurwik-Gorska, was a highly influential artist and painter out of Poland. Even though she was a Polish person by birth, Tamara de Lempicka spent the majority of her career working in the United States of America and France. Tamara de Lempicka was highly renowned for her stunning and polished portraits of wealthy aristocrats in Art Deco style. Tamara de Lempicka’s wonderfully stylized nude paintings also helped her gain more fame as an artist who presented female sexuality in a stunning fashion.

Where was Tamara de Lempicka born?

Tamara de Lempicka was born in Poland’s capital, Warsaw on May 16th, 1898. At that point of time, it was called Congress Poland of the Russian Empire. Tamara de Lempicka’s father was a Russian Jewish attorney named Boris Gurwik-Gorski and her mother was the Polish Catholic socialite Malwina Decler. Decler’s life had mainly been spent outside Poland and she had met Tamara de Lempicka’s father at a European spa. When Tamara de Lempicka turned 10 years old, her mother commissioned a local artist to do a pastel portrait of hers. Tamara de Lempicka however, hated posing for the commission and was extremely dissatisfied with the end result. As a response, Tamara de Lempicka asked her younger sister to sit in the same pose and ended up with her first ever portrait. In 1911, Tamara de Lempicka was sent to Lausanne, Switzerland’s boarding school to study. However, she was extremely bored during her stay in that school and faked an illness to get out. An year later, Tamara de Lempicka’s grandmother took her to Italy for a vacation and that’s where her interest in art developed even more. After spending her formative years in Poland, Tamara de Lempicka moved to Saint Petersburg in Russia. During her time in Saint Petersburg, Tamara de Lempicka married a wealthy and prominent lawyer, Tadeusz Lempicki who also hailed from Poland. Tamara de Lempicka’s family offered a large dowry to Tadeusz Lempicki and the couple got married in a grand ceremony at Saint Petersburg’s chapel of the Knights of Malta. After her marriage, Tamara de Lempicka moved to Paris and her artistic career really shifted into overdrive, as it can be expected in one of premier artistic and cultural centres of the world. Tamara de Lempicka studied art with famous painters like Maurice Denis and Andre Lhote. Tamara de Lempicka absorbed all of her influences and presented a style which was a great blend of the neoclassical style and late, refined Cubism. One of Tamara de Lempika’s biggest influences was the work of famous French Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

Where did Tamara de Lempicka live?

In between the First and Second World Wars, Tamara de Lempicka was an extremely active participant of the artistic social circles of Paris. In the year 1928, Tamara de Lempicka met Baron Raoul Kuffner, an extremely wealthy art patron and collector of the erstwhile Austro-Hungarian Kingdom. Since Kuffner was still married, Tamara de Lempicka became his mistress. Co-incidentally, Baron Raoul Kuffner’s wife passed away in the year 1933. One year later, the Baron married his mistress Tamara de Lempicka. The marriage led to Tamara de Lempicka being labelled as ‘The Baroness with a Brush’ by the press.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939 and Europe started burning, Tamara de Lempicka and her husband Baron Raoul Kuffner moved across the Atlantic to the United States of America. Upon moving to the United States of America, Tamara de Lempicka mainly painted portraits of celebrities in her unique style. She also started doing abstract paintings in the 60s. Tamara de Lempicka’s work had fallen out of fashion after the end of the Second World and it wasn’t until the resurgence of Art Deco near the end of the 60s, that Tamara de Lempicka’s work became relevant again. In 1974, Tamara de Lempicka moved to Mexico from the United States of America.

Why is Tamara de Lempicka famous?

Tamara de Lempicka is one of the most prominent figureheads of the Art Deco movement. Her work is highly sought after in the art market and famous celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Barbara Streisand and Madonna are dedicated collectors of her art. Madonna has even used Tamara de Lempicka’s work for her music videos such as Vogue, Open Your Heart, Express Yourself and Drowned World/Substitute for Love.

When did Tamara de Lempicka die?

After spending an extensive amount of time in the United States of America, Tamara de Lempicka moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico in 1974. Soon after that, her daughter Kizette lost her husband to illness and moved to Mexico to take care of her mother. However, Tamara de Lempicka’s health started rapidly declining after that and she passed away in her sleep on March 18th, 1980, at the age of 80. Tamara de Lempicka was cremated and her ashes were scattered over the Popocateptl volcano, as per her wish.

On May 16th, 2018, Google commemorated the life and contributions of Tamara de Lempicka on the occasion of her 120th birth anniversary by releasing a Doodle. Here’s what the Google Doodle blog said:

“I live life in the margins of society, and the rules of normal society don’t apply to those who live on the fringe.”

-Tamara de Lempicka

Today’s Doodle celebrates Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka, who made a career out of subverting expectations and in doing so, developed her distinct style in the Art Deco era.

Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1898, Lempicka’s love for art started at an early age. As a young child, she spent a summer in Italy with her grandmother, who inspired her love for great Italian Renaissance painters. Upon her parents divorce, she was sent to live with her wealthy aunt in Russia. It was during this time that Lempicka was exposed to the lives of nobility as well as her future husband, Tadeusz Lempicki.

Shortly after their marriage, the Russian Revolution began and Lempicka, now a refugee, moved from St. Petersburg to Paris. It was there, at the height of post-cubism, where she began her formal artistic training under the influence of French painters Maurice Denis and André Lhote.

Internalizing her grandiose and decorative surroundings, Lempicka went on to produce exquisite tributes to the Roaring Twenties in her own unique way, utilizing a blend of late neoclassical and refined cubist styles in her art. Her affinity for the luxurious also led her to fixate on portraits of artists, stars, and aristocrats, which coupled with her considerable charm and exotic lifestyle, lit up the art world and social circles of the period.

Today’s Doodle by Doodler Matthew Cruickshank pays homage to Lempicka’s unique style. Cruickshank shares:

“Few artists embodied the exuberant roaring twenties more than Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka. Her fast paced, opulent lifestyle manifests itself perfectly into the stylized Art-Deco subjects she celebrated in her paintings. I first encountered Lempicka’s work at her Royal Academy show in London, 2004. I was struck by the scale and skill of her paintings coupled with her life (as colorful as her work!). I chose to place a portrait of Lempicka in my design with accompanying motifs evocative of the roaring ’20s and ’30s. It’s no easy feat to recreate any artists work – but I hope to have done so here.”

Happy 120th birthday, Tamara de Lempicka!”

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