Tamara de Lempicka
May 16, 1898, Warsaw – March 18, 1980, Mexico
Tamara de Lempicka is considered the most famous female painter of the Art Deco Movement. Her style embodied the luxury and sophistication of a world eager to move past the pains of war. Art Deco gained its roots in the Art and Crafts Movement (1880-1920), and further inspiration from Art Nouveau (1880-1910). Like those two styles, the Art Deco Movement (1910-1939) encompassed a variety of mediums, including furniture, textiles, ceramics, metalwork, jewelry, architecture, painting / graphic arts, and stained glass. Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau took its inspiration and pride from that which was handcrafted, and whose designs, across all art forms, were both inspired by nature and consisted of natural, organic shapes. While growing from those roots, Art Deco demonstrated a cultural shift toward industrialization and a love of all things mechanized, in its symmetrical, simplistic, but rigid designs. The color palettes used in Art Deco further enforce the industrial, yet glamorous themes with its heavy use of metallic gold, silver, and black.
Symbolic of not only the culture and era, Ms. Lipicka’s self-portrait, in particular, entitled: Autoportrait; Tamara in a Green Bugatti, (1929), demonstrates her independence, mobility, high social status, and of course, her talent. Her journey to the top of her field was at times tumultuous, others, an adventure beginning with a privileged upbringing in Warsaw, a first marriage to a wealthy lawyer, then later, another to a Baron, which earned her the title, “Baroness with a Brush.” Her work combined with war and the stock market crash, brought her from Warsaw to Paris, then to the United States and finally to Mexico. In each of these places, she mingled with the elite, and made a name for herself in each of these circles, spreading her fame wide. When, in the 1940’s, Art Deco fell from popularity, she attempted to re-invent herself but never attained the reputation she had pre-WWII. A few years before her death, however, Art Deco experienced a resurgence in popularity lending her work to be recognized once again. She passed away in 1980 in Mexico, where, at her request, her ashes were scattered by her daughter, Kizette, on the volcano, Mount Popocatépetl.