Tamara de Lempicka: Why Google honours her today

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Described as a The Baroness with a Brush, Tamara Lempicka is hailed for her distinctive Art Deco style. 

Lempicka would be celebrating her birthday on May 16. In her honour, Google is changing its logo in 14 countries.

This is her story:

Russian Revolution

  • Born Maria Gorska in Warsaw, Poland, in 1898, Lempicka’s love for art started at an early stage.

  • Her father was a Russian-Jewish lawyer and her mother was a Polish socialite. She went to boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • As a young child, in 1911, she spent a summer in Italy with her grandmother, who inspired her love for great Italian Renaissance painters, sparking a love of art that would define the rest of her life.

  • Upon her parents divorce, she was sent to live with her aunt in Russia. In there she met her future husband, prominent lawyer Tadeusz Lempicki, and married in 1914 when she was 16.
  • The very next year, in 1917, the Russian Revolution started. Her husband was arrested in the middle of the night by the Bolsheviks.

  • After locating her husband in prison and helping his release, Lempicka and her husband flee. They found refugee in Paris.

A refugee 

  • The artist arrived in Paris at the height of post-cubism. In Paris, she reinvented herself as “Tamara de Lempicka” a name that had direct aristocratic pretensions.

  • The artist was a refugee in the city, her daughter Kizette was born in Paris, adding to their financial needs. So the artist was determined to make money from her art.

  • She began her formal artistic training under the influence of French painters Maurice Denis and Andre Lhote.

  • Lhote was her most influential mentor as his style often referred as “soft cubism” is detectable in Lempicka’s style.

  • She became prominent in Paris’ bohemian art scene. Her paintings merged late cubist and neoclassical techniques to create a metal-like visual style that was her own.

  • “My goal is never to copy,” Lempicka reportedly said. Instead, she sought to “create a new style, clear luminous colours”.

My goal is never to copy


Early success 

  • By the mid-20s, Lempicka’s portraits were being exhibited in Paris salons. 

  • In 1927 Lempicka painted one of her best-known works: Autoportrait (Lempicka in a green Bugatti), for the cover of the German Fashion magazine Die Dame.

  • The portrait celebrates the independence of women. It is one of the best-known examples of Art Deco portrait painting. 
  • In the same year she received her first prize at the Exposition Internationale des Beaux-Arts for the painting Kizette on the Balcony, a portrait of her daughter.  

  • In 1928 she divorced her husband and married Raoul Kuffner, a baron of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and art collector in 1933.
  • She placed a high value on working famously saying: “There are no miracles, there is only what you make.”

Escaping war

  • In Paris Lempicka recognised the early signed of a second world war, and she with her husband, the baron, decided to leave France and move to Hollywood, California.

  • From the US, she managed to rescue her daughter Kizette from Nazi-occupied Paris in 1941 after a struggle.
  • In 1943 she moved to New York City (NYC) by then her style became somewhat passe and as a consequence, her work didn’t have the demand it had before.

  • When her husband died in 1961, she moved to Houston and she began producing more abstract paintings. However, her work was poorly received.
  • Following his death, the artist sold many of her possessions and made three around-the-world trips by ship. In 1963 she moved to Houston. 

  • She continued to reapaint her early works and the last work she painted was the fourth copy of her painting of St Anthony.

  • The artist was reportedly very temperamental in her old age. In 1978 she decided to move to Mexico, two years later she died in her sleep and following her wishes, her ashes were scattered on top of Popocatepetl, a volcano in Mexico.

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