TAMARA DE LEMPICKA (1898-1980)
Born Maria Górska to a Polish socialite mother and a powerful Russian attorney father, the privileged and well traveled Lempicka developed the confidence and poise to be at ease with her portrait sitters, who were the cream of society and industry. An independent spirit from an early age, she was 18 when she married Tadeusz Lempicki in 1916. About a year later, during the Russian Revolution, the couple fled to Paris. She was a workaholic and an elusive wife and mother, neglecting her daughter Kizette, whom she immortalized in portraits, and her husband, who left in 1928 because of Lempicka’s feverish pursuit of lovers, models, and patrons. She remarried to Baron Raoul Kuffner, who made her a baroness and assured her place in high society.
As an artist, Lempicka was a classicist who took interest in Renaissance paintings as a teenager while traveling with her family. She studied the old masters at the Académie del la Grande Chaumière in Paris, and worked relentlessly to achieve fame and status. Lempicka’s fascination with celebrity fed her obsession with her own image. She was the first artist to be thought of in luminary terms, and was known to wear garments gifted to her by Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. In this self-portrait, she famously wore an Hermès sports outfit with gloves and a leather cap, taking her cues from the Kertèsz photograph.
Lempicka was one of the most colorful and well-known interpreters of modernism — popular among the royalty and socialites in the French aristocracy, as well as the Hollywood elite. Madonna, Barbra Streisand, and Jack Nicholson are among her famous collectors.