Art Deco, Art History, Artists, Painters

Art Deco Diva

Tamara de Lempicka was a Polish painter in 1920s and 1930s. She was born in Warsaw in 1898 as Maria Gorska. She is best known for her polished Art Deco portraits of aristocrats and the wealthy, also for her highly-stylized painting of nudes.

Her style was a blend of late refined cubism and the neoclassical style. She was particularly inspired by the work of French painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Her work was considered out of fashion after the World War II, but in the late of 1960s it was rediscovered with the Art Deco.

The Musician, 1929 (Photo credit: WikiArt)

Art Deco is a classical, symmetrical and rectilinear style which high point was in the period between 1925-1935, it drew inspiration from others art movements as Cubism, Futurism and the Bauhaus. It was a dominant art form of the 1920s in Paris, city where Tamara lived in the period between wars. There, she was an active participant in the artistic and social life of the city. While she was living in Paris she studied painting with Maurice Denis and André Lhote.

In this period, she painted portraits of writers, artists, scientists, industrialists, and many of Eastern Europe’s exiled nobility. Kizette de Lempica-Foxhall (her daughter) in the biography of her mother, Passion by Design, she wrote “She painted them all, the rich, the successful, the renowned — the best.”

Tamara decided change Paris for America at the threat of a second World War. She went to Hollywood and there she became the favourite artist of many Hollywood Stars. In 1943, she and her second husband moved to New York, there she continued painting in the “old style” for one year or two. When the war was over she decided to reopen her famous studio in Paris and redecorated in rococo style.

My objective was never to imitate, but to create a new style, with luminous and vivid colours, and to infuse my subjects with elegance.”

Self-Portrait, 1929 (Photo credit: WikiArt)


    • The list of Lempickas’s collector include Jack Nicholson, Barbra Streisand and Madonna, who has featured Lempicka’s work in some of her music videos for “Open your heart” in 1987, “Express Yourself” in 1989, “Vogue” in 1990 and “Drowned World/Substitute for Love” in 1998.
    • A stage play called Tamara, was inspired by her meeting with Gabriele D’Annunzio and it was first staged in Toronto; then in Los Angeles for eleven years (1984–1995) making it the longest running play in Los Angeles, and some 240 actors were employed over the years.
    • In 2005, the actress and artist Kara Wilson performed Deco Diva, a one-woman stage play based on Lempicka’s life.
    • Lempicka’s life and her relationship with one of her models is fictionalized in Ellis Avery’s novel The Last Nude, which won the American Library Association, Stonewall Book Awards, Barbara Gittings Literature Award for 2013.