On the 120th anniversary of her birth, a monographic exhibition that celebrates the most sophisticated interpreter of feminist modernism.
The exhibition “Tamara de Lempicka. Queen of Art Deco” is being held in Madrid until February 24th of the upcoming year.Having already been presented in Paris and in Italy, this exhibit is divided into 10 sections and includes paintings, photos, furnishings, clothes and objects that belonged to or were connected to the painter. This review, which in addition to the artist, puts the worldliness of an entire era on stage – a time period in which she herself was a magnificent interpreter.
Restless, elegant and mysterious, in her works she represents the glamour of the Paris jet-set in which she joined after her flight from Russia. Polish by birth, she had married a Russian lawyer, Tadeusz Lempicki. Overwhelmed by the collapse of the Tsarist regime, in 1917 they found themselves in Paris together with many other Russian exiles.
These are years of unrest, uninhibited sex and drugs. Tamara, courted by men and women, did not turn away from homosexual relationships. She attended the most celebrated parties, working until late into night, traveling, drinking, creating a sort of character. In 1933, she divorced and married the rich baron Kuffner. In the meantime, she entered the art scene with an original style, filling the paintings with monumental figures in exhibited poses, as well as sculptural bodies, outlined by emphatic curved lines or with sharp net margins. The colour range is small yet refined, and the metallic colours are carefully chosen. Her favourite subject are beautiful women and tall girls with marked eyes and bright red lips. Women like her, who drove a Bugatti or went skiing in Saint Moritz, dressed in elegant evening dresses or formal men’s clothing.
After the first section of the exhibition, visitors can move on to the area dedicated to her house-atelier in rue Méchain, the set of her social life. This modern glass and steel home was often published in magazines of the time. The third section focuses on her relationship with fashion, her great passion. There are illustrations that she made for magazines in the industry, photos of her as a model, along with clothes and shoes. The models of her favourite designers, like Vionnet or Patou, are also compared with the dresses of the women in her paintings.
However, the fourth section of the exhibit is where we enter the soul of this artist, offered portraits of her lovers – Amazons, powerful and strong women, as at the time were indicated women with Sapphic relationships. Intriguing works that show a stylistic evolution towards photographic-type images. The theme of her personal relationships returns in the section entitled “Love Visions”, which closes the exhibition, because basically, as Mori writes, the subject of her paintings is above all the men and women she loved.
In section 8, the manual of art history analyses the multiple influences in her paintings from the art of the past. In fact, in the United States, where she went to live in 1939, the press called her “Madame la Baroness, Modern Medievalist”. The 9th section is dedicated to this American phase, Tamara de Lempicka, Baroness Kuffner. There, Tamara attended the golden world of Hollywood and posed as a movie star. She continued to paint, trying to renew herself, yet her new style no longer met the public’s tastes. Even the times are different, the war had swept away the roaring ’20s and her paintings, with those figures with soft edges and soft colours, seemed out of place. After the war, she often returned to Paris, took part in events, however she was no longer successful. In 1961, she stopped exhibiting. The following years were a rather melancholy decline, having pictures taken in improbable poses and becoming a luxurious nomad. In 1972, however, an exhibition in Paris relaunched her. However, it cornered her as an Art Deco icon, cutting out all the subsequent production and turning her into an “artist of the past”.
Lastly, do not miss out on the section dedicated to Alfonzo XIII. At the death of the former king of Spain, Tamara said that the sovereign himself had commissioned a portrait, but since there was no trace of it, this was taken as one of her exaggerations. Quite to the contrary, the painting exists and was identified by Mori – now exhibited in this exhibition.
However, it is quite likely that the most authentic part of this artist is in the Mother and Daughter section. In those portraits of Kizette, the daughter who in real life loved little and neglected a great deal, yet who she painted countless times with surprising attention and psychological intuition. This is just one of the many contradictions of an artist who seems to really express herself only through the filter of painting.