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LEMPICKA Patrick Bade TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/14/2005 3:02 PM 9:03 Page AM 2Page 2 Text: Patrick Bade Layout: Baseline Co Ltd 127-129 A Nguyen Hue Fiditourist, 3rd floor District 1, Hô Chi Minh-Ville Vietnam © Parkstone Press International, New York, USA © Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA © de Lempicka Estate / Artists Rights Society, New York, USA / ADAGP © Denis Estate / Artists Rights Society, New York, USA / ADAGP © Lepape Estate / Artists Rights Society, New York, USA / ADAGP. © Dix Estate / Artists Rights Society, New York, USA / VG Bild-Kunst. © Pierre et Gilles. Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris © O'Keeffe Estate / Artists Rights Society, New York USA © Lotte Lasterstein. All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright holder, throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyright in the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case we would appreciate notification. ISBN 978-1-78042-969-4 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:02 8:37 PM Page AM Page 3 3 L Tamara de empicka Patrick Bade TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 11/10/2005 3:02 PM Page 4 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:02 8:37 PM Page AM Page 5 5 Contents INTRODUCTION 7 EARLY LIFE 9 ART DECO 45 TURNING POINT 101 MASTERWORKS 133 BIBLIOGRAPHY 204 BIOGRAPHY 205 INDEX 206 TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 6 12/3/2005 10:29 AM Page 6 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:03 8:37 PM Page AM Page 7 7 Introduction T amara de Lempicka created some of the most iconic images of the twentieth century. Her portraits and nudes of the years 1925-1933 grace the dust jackets of more books than the work of any other artist of her time. Publishers understand that in reproduction, these pictures have an extraordinary power to catch the eye and kindle the interest of; the public. In recent years, the originals of the images have fetched record sums at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Beyond the purchasing power of most museums, these paintings have been eagerly collected by film and pop stars. In May 2004, the Royal Academy of Arts in London staged a major show of de Lempicka’s work just one year after she had figured prominently in another big exhibition of Art Deco at the Victoria and Albert museum. The public flocked to the show despite a critical reaction of unprecedented hostility towards an artist of such established reputation and market value. In language of moral condemnation hardly used since Hitler’s denunciations of modern art at the Nuremberg rallies and the Nazi-sponsored exhibition of Degenerate Art, the art critic of the Sunday Times, Waldemar Januszczak, fulminated “I had assumed her to be a mannered and shallow peddler of Art Deco banalities. But I was wrong about that. Lempicka was something much worse. She was a successful force for aesthetic decay, a melodramatic corrupter of a great style, a pusher of empty values, a degenerate clown and an essentially worthless artist whose pictures, to our great shame, we have somehow contrived to make absurdly expensive.” According to Januszczak, de Lempicka did not arrive in Paris in 1919 as an innocent refugee from the Russian Revolution but on a sinister mission, intending “an assault on human decency and the artistic standards of her time.” One cannot help wondering what it was about de Lempicka’s art that should bring down upon it such hysterical vituperation. There is a clue perhaps in his waspish observation “Luther Vandross collects her, apparently. Madonna. Page 6 Streisand. That type.” Tamara de Lempicka in evening dress, The hostility is perhaps more politically than aesthetically motivated and what really got c. 1929. under the skin of certain critics was the glamorous life style of Tamara’s collectors as well as of Black and white photograph her sitters. on paper, 22.3 x 12 cm. 7 TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 11/10/2005 3:03 PM Page 8 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:03 8:37 PM Page AM Page 9 9 Early Life TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:03 8:37 PM Page AM Page 10 10 The Life 10 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:03 8:37 PM Page AM Page 11 11 Early Life T amara de Lempicka’s origins and her early life are shrouded in mystery. Our knowledge of her background is dependent upon some highly unreliable fragments of autobiography, and upon the accounts given by her daughter Baroness Kizette de Lempicka-Foxhall to de Lempicka’s American biographer Charles Phillips. De Lempicka was a fabulist and a self mythologiser of the first order, capable of deceiving her daughter and even herself. Much of her story as told by her daughter has the ring of a romantic novel or a movie script and may not be much more authentic. Both the place and the date of de Lempicka’s birth vary in different accounts. There is nothing more significant in the changing birth dates than the vanity of a beautiful woman (in Tamara’s time female opera singers with the official title of Kammersängerin had the legal right in the Austro-Hungarian Empire to change the date of their birth by up to five years). According to some, de Lempicka changed her birth place from Moscow to Warsaw which could be more significant. There has been speculation that de Lempicka was of Jewish origin on her father’s side and that the deception over her place of birth resulted from an attempt to cover this up. Certainly the ability to reinvent oneself time and again in new locations, manifested by de Lempicka throughout her life, was a survival mechanism developed by many Jews of her generation. The prescience of the danger of Nazi Germany in a woman not usually politically minded and her desire to leave Europe in 1939 might also suggest that she was part Jewish. The official version was that Tamara Gurwik-Gorska was born in 1898 in Warsaw into a wealthy and upper-class Polish family. Following three partitions in the late eighteenth century, the larger part of Poland including Warsaw was absorbed into the Russian Empire. The rising tide of nationalism in the nineteenth century brought successive revolts against Russian rule and increasingly harsh attempts to Russify the Poles and to repress Polish identity. There is little to suggest that Tamara ever identified with the cultural and political aspirations of the Polish people. On the contrary, she seems to have identified with the ruling classes of the Tzarist regime that oppressed Poland. It is telling that in 1918 when she escaped from Bolshevist Russia she chose exile in Paris along with thousands of Russian aristocrats, rather than live in the newly liberated and independent Poland. The family of her mother, Malvina Decler, was wealthy enough to spend the “season” in St. Petersburg and to travel to fashionable spas throughout Europe. It was on one such trip that Malvina Decler met her future husband Boris Gorski. Little is known about him except that he was a lawyer working for a French firm. For whatever reason Boris Gorski was not someone that Tamara chose to highlight in her accounts of her early life. From what Tamara herself later said, she seems to have enjoyed a happy childhood with her older brother Stanczyk and her younger sister Adrienne. The wilfulness of her temperament, apparent from an early age, was indulged rather than tamed. The commissioning of a portrait of Tamara at the age of twelve turned into an important and revelatory event. “My mother decided to have my portrait done by a famous woman who worked in pastels. I had to sit still Page 10 for hours at a time…more…it was a torture. Later I would torture others who sat for me. When Portrait of Baroness Renata Treves, 1925. she finished, I did not like the result, it was not… precise. The lines, they were not fournies, Oil on canvas, 100 x 70 cm, not clean. It was not like me. I decided I could do better. I did not know the technique. Barry Friedman Ltd., New York. 11 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:03 8:37 PM Page AM Page 12 12 The Life Page 12 Peasant Girl Praying, c. 1937. Oil on canvas, 25 x 15 cm, Private Collection. Page 13 The Polish Girl, 1933. Oil on panel, 35 x 27 cm, Private Collection. 12 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:03 8:37 PM Page AM Page 13 13 Early Life 13 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:03 8:37 PM Page AM Page 14 14 The Life I had never painted, but this was unimportant. My sister was two years younger. I obtained the paint. I forced her to sit. I painted and painted until at last, I had a result. It was imparfait but more like my sister than the famous artist’s was like me.” If Tamara’s vocation was born from this incident as she suggests, it was encouraged further the following year when her grandmother took her on a trip to Italy. According to Tamara, she and her grandmother colluded to persuade the family that the trip was necessary for health reasons. The young girl feigned illness and her grandmother was eager to accompany Tamara to the warmer climes of Rome, Florence and Monte Carlo as a cover for her passion for gambling. The elderly Polish lady and her startlingly beautiful granddaughter must have looked as picturesquely exotic as the Polish family observed by Aschenbach in Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice. Visits to museums in Venice, Florence and Rome lead to a life long passion for Italian Renaissance art that informed de Lempicka’s finest work in the 1920s and 30s. A torn and crumpled photograph of Tamara taken in Monte Carlo shows her as a typical young girl de bonne famille of the period before the First World War. Her lovingly combed hair cascades with Pre-Raphaelite abundance over her shoulders and almost down to her waist. She poses playing the children’s game of diabolo but her voluptuous lips and coolly confident gaze belie her thirteen years. It would not be long before she would be ready for the next great adventure of her life – courtship and marriage. Played against the backdrop of the First World War and the death throes of the Russian monarchy, the story as passed down by Tamara and her daughter is, as so often in de Lempicka’s life, worthy of a popular romantic novel or movie. When Tamara’s mother remarried, the resentful daughter went to stay with her Aunt Stephanie and her wealthy banker husband in St. Petersburg, where she remained trapped by the outbreak of war and the subsequent German occupation of Warsaw. Just before the war when Tamara was still only fifteen, she spotted a handsome young man at the opera surrounded by beautiful and sophisticated women and instantly decided that she had to have him. His name was Tadeusz Lempicki. Though qualified as a lawyer, he was something of a playboy, from a wealthy land-owning family. With her customary boldness and lack of Page 15 inhibitions, the young girl flouted convention by approaching Tadeusz and making an Peasant Girl with Pitcher, c. 1937. elaborate curtsey. Tamara had the opportunity to reinforce the impression she had made on Oil on panel, 35 x 27 cm, Tadeusz at their first meeting when later in the year, her uncle gave a costume ball to which Private collection. Lempicki was invited. In amongst the elegant and sophisticated ladies in the Poiret-inspired fashions of the the day, Tamara appeared as a peasant goose-girl leading a live goose on a string. Page 16 Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer could not have invented a ploy more effective for The Peasant Girl, c. 1937. catching the eye of the handsome hero. In an account that has the ring of truth to it, Tamara Oil on canvas, 40.6 x 30.5 cm, admitted that the brokering of her marriage to Tadeusz by her Uncle was less than entirely Lempicka’s Succession. romantic. The wealthy banker went to the handsome young man about town and said “Listen. I will put my cards on the table. You are a sophisticated man, but you don’t have much fortune. Page 17 I have a niece, Polish, whom I would like to marry. If you will accept to marry her, I will give The Fortune Teller, c. 1922. her a dowry. Anyway, you know her already.” Oil on canvas, 73 x 59.7 cm, Barry Friedman Ltd., New York. 14 By the time the marriage took place in the chapel of the Knights of Malta in the recently renamed Petrograd in 1916, Romanov Russia was on the verge of collapse under the onslaught TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:04 8:37 PM Page AM Page 15 15 Early Life 15 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:04 8:37 PM Page AM Page 16 16 The Life 16 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:04 8:37 PM Page AM Page 17 17 Early Life 17 TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 11/10/2005 3:04 PM Page 18 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:04 8:37 PM Page AM Page 19 19 Early Life of the German army and on the point of being engulfed in revolution. The tribulations of the newly married couple after the rise of the Bolsheviks belong not so much to the plot of a novel as of an opera, with Tamara cast in the role of Tosca and Tadeusz as Cavaradossi. Given the background and life-style of the couple and the reactionary political sympathies and activities of Tadeusz, it was not surprising that he should have been arrested under the new regime. Tamara remembered that she and Tadeusz were making love when the secret police pounded at the door in the middle of the night and hauled Tadeusz off to prison. In her efforts to locate her husband and to arrange for his escape from Russia, Tamara enlisted the help of the Swedish consul who like Scarpia in Puccini’s operatic melodrama, demanded sexual favours. Happily the outcome was different from that of Puccini’s opera and neither party cheated the other. Tamara gave the Swedish consul what he wanted and he honoured his promise not only to aid Tamara’s escape from Russia but also the subsequent release and escape of her husband. Tamara travelled on a false passport via Finland to be re-united with relatives in Copenhagen. It was a route followed by countless Russian aristocrats, artists and intellectuals, often with hardly less colourful adventures than those of Tamara and Tadeusz. The beautiful and extremely voluptuous soprano Maria Kouznetsova, a darling of Imperial Russia, escaped on a Swedish freighter, somewhat improbably disguised as a cabin boy. Refugees from the Russian Revolution fanned out across the globe, but Paris which had long been a second home to well-healed Russians, became a Mecca for White Russians in the inter-war period. Inevitably, Tamara and Tadeusz were drawn there along with Tamara’s mother and younger sister (her brother was one of the millions of casualties of the war). Unlike so many refugees who arrived there penniless and friendless they could at least rely upon help from Aunt Stefa and her husband, who had managed to retain some of his wealth and to re-establish himself in his former career as a banker. From the turn of the century the political alliance between Russia and France – aimed at containing the menace of Wilhelmine Germany – encouraged the growth of cultural links between the two countries. The great impresario Sergei Diaghilev took advantage of this political climate to establish himself in Paris. In 1906, Diaghilev organised an exhibition of Page 18 Russian portraits at the Grand Palais that pioneered a more imaginative presentation of The Gypsy, c. 1923. paintings and sculptures. Following this success, he arranged concerts that for the first time Oil on canvas, 73 x 60 cm, presented to the French public the music of such composers as Glazunov, Rachmaninov, Private Collection. Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Scriabin. Young French musicians, yearning to escape from under the shadow of Wagner, were enchanted by this music that was fresh and new and not Page 20 German. In 1908 at the Paris Opera, Diaghilev put on the first performances in the West of the Woman Wearing a Shawl, in Prof ile, greatest of all Russian operas, Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. Paris was overwhelmed not only by c. 1922. Oil on canvas, 61 x 46 cm, the originality and barbarous splendour of Mussorgsky’s music, but also by the revelation of the Barry Friedman Ltd., New York. interpretative genius of the bass Feodor Chaliapin. Chaliapin had terrified audiences standing on their seats trying to see the ghost in the famous Clock Scene and immediately established a Page 21 reputation as the greatest singing actor of the age. Misia Sert, perhaps the most influential Portrait of a Young Lady in a Blue Dress, arbiter of fashionable taste in these years wrote “I left the theatre stirred to the point of realising 1922. Oil on canvas, 63 x 53 cm, that something had changed in my life.” Barry Friedman Ltd., New York. 19 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:04 8:37 PM Page AM Page 20 20 The Life 20 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 21 21 Early Life 21 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 22 22 The Life The following year, Diaghilev’s efforts climaxed in the presentation to the Parisian public of the Russian ballet. Parisians were dazzled by the dancing and choreographic talents of a company that included such legendary names as Nijinsky, Pavlova, Karsavina and Fokine and by the experience of ballet, not as trivial entertainment but as a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk. Diaghilev and his ballet company continued to dazzle and astonish Paris for the next two decades. Diaghilev had an unparalleled talent for divining and developing the talents of others. Without mentioning the dancers and choreographers who created modern ballet under his aegis, the list of artists and musicians who worked for Diaghilev is a compendium of the greatest talent of the age and includes Stravinsky, Debussy, Ravel, Richard Strauss, Satie, Falla, Resphigi, Prokofiev, Poulenc, Milhaud, Bakst, Goncharova, Larionov, Balla, Picasso, Derain, Braque, Gris, Marie Laurencin, Max Ernst, Miro, Coco Chanel, Utrillo, Rouault, de Chirico, Gabo, Pevsner and Cocteau. Tamara de Lempicka’s career peaked in the year of Diaghilev’s death, 1929, and the trajectory of his brilliant career has relevance to hers in more ways than one. Diaghilev probably had more to do than anyone with establishing the myth of Russian creativity and exoticism in the arts. In later years when supplies of genuine Russian dancers were cut off by the Russian Revolution and Diaghilev was forced to use British dancers, he maintained their mystique by Russifying their names. So it was that Alice Marks became Alicia Markova, Patrick Healey-Kay mutated into Anton Dolin and Hilda Munnings became Lydia Sokolova after a spell under the unconvincing sobriquet of Hilda Munningsova. By the 1930s the idea that to be Russian was to be glamorous and exotic had permeated popular culture. In the 1937 version of the film A Star is Born, the young girl being groomed for stardom, played by Janet Gaynor is repeatedly asked by an employee of the studio publicity department if she has any Russian ancestry in the hope of creating a more exciting image for her. Diaghilev’s designers, notably Leon Bakst, played a vital role in developing the Art Deco style with which de Lempicka became associated. In particular Bakst’s designs for the 1910 production of Sheherazade had an extraordinary impact on fashion and interior design. For the next generation, fashionable Parisian hostesses dressed themselves and decorated their salons as though for an oriental orgy. Even in the late 1920s, photographs of Tamara de Lempicka’s bedrooms show decors which, though much pared down from the lushness of Bakst’s designs, make them look as if Nijinsky’s sex slave would not be out of place as an overnight guest. Paris in the inter-war period was teeming with Russian refugees. It was jokingly said that every second taxi driver in Paris was either a real or pretend Grand Duke. It was a situation that inspired the popular play Tovarich (turned into a Hollywood movie in 1937 starring Charles Boyer and Claudette Colbert) in which two former members of the Russian royal family are forced to earn a living as a butler and ladies’ maid in a wealthy Parisian household. A book on Parisian pleasures with charming Art Deco illustrations, entitled Paris leste 22 Page 23 commented on Russians partying in Paris, “you could think that there was a pre-war Russian Woman with Dove, 1931. party – that is to say a party where the Russians have money and a post-war Russian party, Oil on panel, 37 x 28 cm, which is a party where the Russians don’t have money anymore. It’s the same thing! You find Private Collection. the same princes, the same imperial officers and officials in the same clubs. They’re doing the TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 23 23 Early Life 23 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 24 24 The Life 24 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 25 25 Early Life Page 24-25 Women Bathing, 1929. Oil on canvas, 89 x 99 cm, Private Collection. 25 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 26 26 The Life 26 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 27 27 Early Life same thing. The only difference is that they used to be the clients and paid, whereas now they are employed by the house.” Tamara herself later claimed to be employing a couple of Russian aristocrats in disguise when she went to live in Hollywood. Apart from all the dancers, musicians and artists associated with Diaghilev already mentioned, there were numerous creative Russians intermittently or permanently resident in Paris. They included the conductor Sergei Koussevitsky, the harpsichordist Wanda Landowska, the singers Nina Koshetz, Oda Slobodskaya, Natalie Wetchor and the entire Kedroff family, all of whom played an important role in the musical life of Paris and the artists Marc Chagall, Sonia Delaunay-Terk, Natalia Goncharova, Nadia Khodossivitch-Leger, Jacques Lipchitz, Serge Poliakoff, Chaim Soutine, Ossip Zadkine, Romain de Tirtoff (known, as Erté), Chana Orloff, Antoine Pevsner and, after 1933, Naum Gabo and Vassili Kandinsky. De Lempicka’s early years in Paris were not happy. Though never reduced to the penury of so many of her refugee compatriots, she was nevertheless dependent upon the largesse of her wealthier relations. Despite the birth of her daughter Kizette, Tamara’s love match with Tadeusz was turning sour as a result of her own infidelities and his frustrations. He refused as demeaning the offer of a job in her uncle’s bank. According to her own account it was out of this grim situation and a desire for financial and personal independence that de Lempicka’s artistic vocation was born. Tamara confessed her plight to her younger sister Adrienne, resulting in the following conversation between the sisters; – “Tamara, why don’t you do something – something of your own? Listen to me, Tamara. I am studying architecture. In two years I’ll be an architect, and I’ll be able to make my own living and even help out Mama. If I can do this, you can do something too” “What? What? What?” “I don’t know, painting perhaps. You can be an artist. You always loved to paint. You have talent. That portrait you did of me when we were children….” The rest, as they say, is history. Tamara bought the brushes and paints, enrolled in an art school, sold her first pictures within months and made her first million (francs) by the time she was twenty-eight. Once again, de Lempicka’s life, according to her own version, begins to sound like a bad movie script and it’s impossible to believe it can all have been that simple. A woman who continued to practice her art so doggedly long after it passed out of fashion and there was nothing practical to be gained from it, cannot have taken up her vocation in such a casual way and on such purely mercenary grounds. Nevertheless Tamara took herself for tuition to two distinguished painters in succession; Maurice Denis (1870-1943) and André Lhote (1885-1962). De Lempicka later claimed that she did not gain much from Denis. It is indeed difficult to imagine that the intensely Catholic Denis would have been much in sympathy with the worldly, modish and erotic tendencies that soon began to display themselves in Tamara’s work. Nevertheless Denis was an intelligent initial choice as a teacher for the aspiring artist. For a brief period in the early 1890s Denis had been at the cutting edge of early modernism as a leading member of the Nabis group that included Vuillard, Bonnard, Sérusier, Ranson and Vallotton. Inspired by the synthetism of Gauguin’s Breton paintings, Denis and his friends Page 26 broke with the naturalism of Salon painting and the very different naturalism of the Group of Four Nudes, c. 1925. impressionists who were tied to sensory perception and painted small pictures in flat patches Oil on canvas, 130 x 81 cm, of bright, exaggerated colours. In 1890 when he was only 20, Denis published his Definition of Private Collection. 27 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 28 28 The Life 28 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 29 29 Early Life Page 28-29 The Sleeping Girl, 1923. Oil on canvas, 89 x 146 cm, Private Collection. Page 30 Seated Nude, c. 1923. Oil on canvas, 94 x 56 cm, Private Collection. Page 31 Nude, Blue Background, 1923. Oil on canvas, 70 x 58.5 cm, Private Collection. 29 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:27 8:37 PM Page AM Page 30 30 The Life 30 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:39 8:37 PM Page AM Page 31 31 Early Life 31 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:39 8:37 PM Page AM Page 32 32 The Life Neo-traditionism chiefly remembered today for its resounding opening statement, “It is well to remember that picture, before being a battle horse, a nude woman or some anecdote, is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order.” It is a statement that could be used to justify the formalism of modern art and even (something that Denis himself would never have accepted) the abandonment of the figurative in art altogether. After a visit to Rome in 1898 in the company of André Gide, Denis turned his back on modernism and was increasingly identified with classicism and with the reactionary Catholicism that was to have such a baleful influence on French cultural and political life in the twentieth century. It was perhaps his reputation for being associated with everything most retrogressive in French art that led de Lempicka to downplay Denis’ importance in her development. However the firm linearity and smooth modelling of the forms in Denis’ later works as well as his attempts to marry modernity with the classical tradition can hardly have failed to influence the young de Lempicka. The aesthetic expressed by Denis in his 1909 publication From Gauguin and Van Gogh to Classicism was surely one with which she would have agreed. “For us painters, our progress towards classicism was based on our good judgement in addressing art’s central problems, both aesthetic and psychological… we demonstrated that any emotion or state of mind aroused by a particular sight gave rise in the artist’s imagination to symbols or concrete equivalents which were able to excite identical emotions, of states of mind, without the need to create a copy of the original sight, and that for each nuance of our emotional make-up there was a corresponding object in tune with it and able to represent it fully. Art is not simply a visual sensation that we receive, – a photograph however sophisticated of nature. No, it is a creation of the mind, for which nature is merely the springboard.” This is surely true of de Lempicka’s strangely cerebral and abstracted portraits of the 1920s. De Lempicka was far more ready to acknowledge the influence of her second teacher André Lhote. Whilst Denis must have seemed like a relic of the nineteenth century, Lhote born in 1885, was not much more than a decade older than de Lempicka herself and was much closer to her modern and worldly outlook. Lhote had been associated with cubism since 1911 when he exhibited at the Salon des Independents and the Salon d’Automne alongside artists such as Jean Metzinger, Roger de La Fresnaye, Albert Gleizes and Fernand Leger. Rather than following the radical experiments in the dissolution of form in Picasso and Braque’s Analytical cubism, he was attracted to the brightly coloured and more representational Synthetic cubism of Juan Gris, Albert Gleizes and Jean Metzinger. For Lhote, painting was a “plastic metaphor…pushed to the limit of resemblance “ In words not so different from those of Denis, he maintained that artists should aim to express an equivalence between emotion and visual sensation, rather than to copy nature. What made Lhote particularly useful to de Lempicka as an example and as a teacher was the acceptance of the decorative role of painting, and also his attempt to fuse elements of cubist abstraction and disruption of conventional perspective with the figurative and classical tradition. It was significant perhaps that Lhote was the son of a 32 Page 33 woodcarver and that his initial training was in the decorative arts. Like Denis, he continued to Seated Nude in Prof ile, c. 1923. be interested in decorative mural painting. His synthesis of cubist angularity and Oil on canvas, 81 x 54 cm, fragmentation with the academic tradition proved influential and helped to make cubism Barry Friedman Ltd., New York. palatable to a wider public. TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:39 8:37 PM Page AM Page 33 33 Early Life 33 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/11/2005 12/6/2005 8:22 8:37 AM Page AM Page 34 34 The Life Page 34 Nude with Sailboats, 1931. Oil on canvas, 113 x 56.5 cm, Bruce R. Lewin Gallery, New York. 34 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:40 8:37 PM Page AM Page 35 35 Early Life Page 35 The Two Girlf riends, 1930. Oil on panel, 73 x 38 cm, Private Collection. 35 TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 12/14/2005 4:02 PM Page 36 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 12/14/2005 12/6/2005 4:02 8:37 PM Page AM Page 37 37 Early Life Page 36-37 Nude on a Terrace, 1925. Oil on canvas, 37.8 x 54.5 cm, Private Collection. 37 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/14/2005 3:40 PM 9:04 Page AM 38 Page 38 The Life If the artist de Lempicka did not spring to life fully formed and fully armed like Athena from the head of Zeus as she would have us believe, the gestation period of her mature art was remarkably short – lasting two or three years at most. Her Portrait of a Polo Player painted around 1922 already shows her predilection for the smart set but could otherwise have been painted by any competent artist trained in Paris in these years. It has a looseness of touch and a painterly quality that would soon disappear from her work. The modelling of the face in bold structural brush strokes shows an awareness of Cezanne that would undoubtedly have been encouraged by both Denis and Lhote. Similarly lush and painterly is the portrait of Ira Perrot later re-titled Portrait of a young Lady in a Blue Dress. In its original form, as exhibited at the Salon d’Automne and photographed at the time with the model in front of it, it showed Ira Perrot seated cross-legged in front of cushions piled up exotically in the manner of Bakst’s Sheherazade designs. More prophetic both stylistically and in subject matter than these two portraits is another canvas of the same period entitled The Kiss. The erotic theme, played out against an urban back-drop, the element of cubist stylisation that gives the picture an air of modernity and dynamism and the metallic sheen on the gentleman’s top hat all anticipate de Lempicka’s artistic maturity. The crudeness of the technique is as yet far from the enamelled perfection of her best work. Naivety is not in general a quality we associate with de Lempicka but this picture has the look of a cover for a lurid popular novel. The following year we find de Lempicka working on a series of large scale and monumental female nudes that might be described as cubified rather than cubist. These works reflect an interest in the classical and the monumental that was widespread in western art following the First World War and throughout the inter-war period. The entire history of western art from the Ancient world onwards can be seen in terms of a series of major and minor classical revivals. In an essay of 1926 entitled The Call to Page 38 Order, Jean Cocteau presented the post-war return to classicism as a necessary reaction to the Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, chaos of radical experimentation during the anarchic decade that had preceded the First World The Turkish Bath, 1862. War. There was undoubtedly some element of truth in this, though the roots of inter-war Oil on canvas, diameter 108 cm, classicism can be traced back much further. Musée du Louvre, Paris. A specifically French version of classicism can be seen as a continuing thread in French art running back as far as Poussin in the seventeenth century. The classicist most often cited in 38 Page 39 connection with de Lempicka is the nineteenth century painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Rhythm, 1924. Oil on canvas, Ingres (1780-1867). The taste for hard, bright colours and enamelled surfaces, the 160 x 144 cm, Private Collection. combination of abstraction and quasi-photographic realism, the eroticising of the female body TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 11/10/2005 3:40 PM Page 39 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:40 8:37 PM Page AM Page 40 40 The Life 40 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:42 8:37 PM Page AM Page 41 41 Early Life through the radical distortion of anatomy and the love of luxurious and fashionable accessories link the female portraits of Ingres and de Lempicka. Baudelaire’s bitchy comment that Ingres’ ideal was “A provocative, adulterous liaison between the calm solidity of Raphael and the affectations of the fashion plate” could apply equally well to de Lempicka, What is perhaps more surprising is the way de Lempicka follows Ingres’ example in treating women as passive sex objects. Like Ingres she shows virtually no interest in the individual psychology or personality of her female sitters. De Lempicka’s female nudes are still more closely linked to Ingres. Her chained and swooning Andromeda with her upturned eyes and head thrown further back than anatomy should allow, against a cubified urban backdrop, is clearly an updated version of Ingres’ Angelica. Her groups of female nudes piled up like inflatable dolls, descend from Ingres’ notorious Turkish Bath. Ingres’ reputation enjoyed a considerable revival in the inter-war period with the two giants of modern painting, Picasso and Matisse, each paying homage to him in their different ways. Another nineteenth century painter who was significant for the classical revival was Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898). In the 1870s just as impressionism, that most nonclassical of styles, was in full bloom, Puvis de Chavannes was developing through a series of monumental murals (often referred to as fresques but painted in oil on canvas) a style that attempted to embody the timeless qualities of classicism without falling into the cliches of the academic art on show at the Paris Salon. Puvis de Chavannes was a hero to the Nabis group. Denis would undoubtedly have urged his students including de Lempicka to follow Puvis’ example. Denis’ fellow Nabi Eduard Vuillard (18681940) wrote “The experiments in stylisation and in expressive synthesis of form which are typical of today’s art were all present in the art of Puvis.” The crisis of confidence suffered by all the impressionists to a greater or lesser degree in the 1880s caused Renoir to turn back to the classical tradition. A trip to Italy from 1881 to 1882 during which he studied Roman wall painting and the Renaissance masters, prompted Renoir to look with renewed interest at Ingres, an artist hitherto regarded as an anathema by most artists of the Impressionist group. In the mid 1880s, Renoir developed a hard-edged style that in turn gave way to the softer but volumetric and monumental style of his later years that had considerable impact on the classicising painters and sculptors of the inter- war period. It was the simple lines and large sculptural volumes of Renoir’s late nudes that Page 40 encouraged Aristide Maillol to break with the pathos and “unsculptural” qualities of Rodin’s The Blue Hour, 1931. Oil on canvas, expressively modelled sculptures. The key work for the re-launching of a monumental classical 55 x 38 cm, Private Collection. 41 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:42 8:37 PM Page AM Page 42 42 The Life style in twentieth century sculpture was Maillol’s La Méditerranée modelled in 1902 and exhibited in bronze in 1905 in the very same Salon d’Automne that saw the controversial debut of the Fauve group. It could be argued that Maillol’s monumental neo-neo-classicism had a longer lasting impact on western art than the spectacular but short lived Fauve movement which could be seen as a glorious coda to the nineteenth century but something of a dead end. It was unfortunate for Maillol’s reputation and indirectly for a while at least for de Lempicka’s that Maillol’s best known pupil was Hitler’s favourite sculptor Arno Breker and that the kind of monumental classicism pioneered by Maillol and practised by de Lempicka became so closely associated with totalitarian regimes of the 1930s. The return to classicism regarded by some followers as a betrayal and even a blasphemous provocation was given the stamp of approval by the king of the Parisian avant-garde Pablo Picasso. As early as 1914 (thus well before there was any question of reaction to the consequences of the war) Picasso began toying with some aspects of classicism, making portrait drawings based on photographs in a hard linear Ingresque style. A good example is the portrait of the art-dealer Léonce Rosenberg made in 1915, that is very reminiscent of the kind of drawings Ingres made of tourists in post Napoleonic Italy. Though de Lempicka was scathing about Picasso, paintings such as the Seated Nude of 1923 depicting a woman with colossal thighs and sculptural breasts, show a clear awareness of Picasso’s work – both the primitivism of the early analytical cubist phase and the gigantic neo-classical female figures of the post war period. In the close and somewhat incestuous artistic and intellectual circles of Paris between the wars, it was inevitable that de Lempicka would have come into contact with most of the leading artists and intellectuals. Amongst the artists and writers she mixed with were Gide, Marinetti, Cocteau, Marie Laurencin, Foujita, Chagall, Kiesling and Van Dongen. Cocteau, who warned her that she risked ruining her art by too much socialising, would have provided her closest contact with Picasso. Cocteau’s own dazzlingly clever and sophisticated erotic drawings would have provided de Lempicka with an example of how to combine the avant-garde, the classical and the slickly commercial. Lifting nude male figures straight from Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling and other Renaissance and classical sources, Cocteau added the enlarged genitals, curling pubic hair and other attributes of homosexual pornography, all drawn in a spare linear Page 41 style closely based on Picasso’s neo-classical drawings. The result is Michelangelo and Picasso Maurice Denis, crossed with Tom of Finland. If the eroticism in de Lempicka’s work is never quite as blatant The Vengeance of Venus. Psyche Falls Asleep as Cocteau’s she certainly managed to achieve a similar synthesis of the modern, the af ter Opening the Casket Containing the illustrational and the commercial in her mature work of the late 1920s. Dreams of the Underworld, 1907. In an article published in 1929, the distinguished French critic Arsène Alexandre remarked Oil on canvas, 395 x 272 cm, upon the successful synthesis of classical and modern in de Lempicka’s work, exclaiming Hermitage St Petersburg. “What singular, happy contradictions enable her to convey the impression of such modernity (intense modernity, in my view) while using such purely classical resources? With the 42 Page 43 apparently chilly style that she sometimes pushes to extremes, by what means can she suggest Suzanne Bathing, c. 1938, feelings (not to mention sensations) that are generally connected with the opposite pole? How Oil on canvas, 90 x 60 cm, can she shift from the expression of chastity, unless of course we find it difficult to distinguish Private Collection. one from the other?” TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:42 8:37 PM Page AM Page 43 43 Early Life 43 TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 11/10/2005 3:42 PM Page 44 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:42 8:37 PM Page AM Page 45 45 Art Deco TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:42 8:37 PM Page AM Page 46 46 The Life 46 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:42 8:37 PM Page AM Page 47 47 Art Deco T he “intense modernity” and “chilliness” of de Lempicka were both expressed through a devotion to the mechanical and the metallic that are characteristic of the period. One of the most distinctive aspects of de Lempicka’s art is the way she paints everything from human flesh to permed hair and crumpled drapery with metallic sheen. One is reminded of Manet’s cutting remark on the military paintings of Ernest Meissonier, that everything looked as though it was made out of metal except the weapons. In de Lempicka’s work though, the metallic quality comes from an aesthetic that is in thrall to the machine. As industrialisation spread through the western world in the nineteenth century, the machine began to influence every area of human endeavour. Many artists reacted initially with horror. The French Symbolist painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes suffered from nightmares after visiting the Hall of Machines in the Paris World Exhibition in 1889. For William Morris, the most influential design theorist of the late nineteenth century, the machine represented a threat to everything he held dear. He could not see that the machine could in fact enable the fulfilment of his desire for art and prosperity for the people. It was not until after the turn of the century that architects and designers such as Richard Riemerschmid and Peter Behrens began to perceive the machine as opportunity rather than a threat. Fine artists also began to find machines exciting and beautiful. In the Futurist Manifesto, published in the French newspaper Le Figaro in 1909, Marinetti proclaimed the advent of “a new beauty….a roaring motorcar, which runs like a machine gun, is more beautiful than the Winged Victory of Samothrace.” When sitting with Marinetti in the Brasserie La Coupole, de Lempicka became so excited by his rhetoric that she found herself part of a mob chanting “Burn the Louvre.” She claimed that she was only thwarted in this plan by the fact that the police had impounded her improperly parked car. The Futurist Manifesto stated “We wish to glorify war.” Certainly the First World War, with mechanized warfare on a hitherto undreamed of scale and the industrialisation of death, while it put paid to the Futurist movement, represented a grim triumph for the machine. The reaction of the painter Fernand Page 46 Léger, who took part in the war as a common soldier was to move towards an art that was more Sharing Secrets, 1928. Oil on canvas, populist and a style that was profoundly influenced by the aesthetic of the machine. He began 46 x 38 cm, Galleria Campo dei painting shiny metallic forms that are not unlike those of de Lempicka. Fiori, Rome. In the inter-war period, the cult of the machine permeated every aspect of culture and society. Motor cars, express trains, aeroplanes, zeppelins and ocean liners replace nymphs and Page 47 caryatids as decorative motifs on the façades and ceilings of department stores such as Barker’s Georges Lepape, Cover of Vogue, 15 in London and Bullocks Wilshire in Los Angeles. Le Corbusier described a house as “a machine March 1927. 47 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:43 8:37 PM Page AM Page 48 48 The Life 48 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/11/2005 12/6/2005 8:57 8:37 AM Page AM Page 49 49 Art Deco 49 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:43 8:37 PM Page AM Page 50 50 The Life for living in.” Buildings such as Broadcasting House in London and the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Los Angeles took on the appearance of immobilised ocean liners, while ocean liners such as the Ile de France, the Normandie, the Queen Mary and the Queen Elizabeth represented the aspirations and ethos of the Art Deco period in a way that cathedrals had done for the Middle Ages and museums and railway stations for the nineteenth century. Even in films such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis of 1927 and Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times of 1936 that aim to warn against the dangers of mechanisation, it is clear that the designers were completely in thrall to the aesthetic of the machine. A naïve and exuberant enthusiasm for the machine is expressed in Hollywood musicals of the Busby Berkeley type in which hundreds of girls in massed formations and all looking as though they themselves have been mass manufactured, move like cogs in a vast machine. The most delightful Hollywood tribute to the aesthetic appeal of the machine is the sequence in the 1937 RKO movie Shall we dance in which Fred Astaire dances to the rhythm of the pistons in the shining and immaculately clean engine room of an ocean liner. Music too, was affected by the love of machines, from the motoric rhythms of avant-garde composers such as Stravinsky and Hindemith and the near pictorial evocations of machines in concert pieces such as Alexander Mosolov’s Iron Foundry and Arthur Honneger’s Pacific 231 (that simulates the sounds of an accelerating locomotive) through to the popular dance bands of the period such as Wal-Berg in Paris that loved to mimic the sounds of express trains and urban traffic. By the 1930s, the machine and mass production had brought just the kind of democratisation of good design of which William Morris had dreamed. Anyone visiting a fleamarket can pick up 1930s mass produced objects in industrial materials such as bakelite and chromed metal that are as sleek and aesthetically satisfying as the most luxurious products of Page 48 the period. The mass produced objects of the art nouveau period always looked like shabby and The Green Turban, 1929. cheap imitations of expensively handcrafted pieces. But in an interesting reversal, the most Oil on panel, 41 x 33 cm, prestigious and expensive craftsmen of the Art Deco period such as the ebonist Jacques-Emile Private Collection. Ruhlmann used the most labour intensive techniques and the most precious materials to reproduce the simple streamlined forms of industrial design. Page 49 The smooth reflective surfaces of the Art Deco style that we see throughout de Lempicka’s The Girls, c. 1930. Oil on panel, best work and in particular in works such as Arlette Boucard with arums of 1931 with its glass 35 x 27 cm, Private collection. topped table and transparent vase, also express a new found desire in western culture for hygiene. The idea that “cleanliness is next to godliness” had not been central to Christian Page 51 culture prior to the nineteenth century (unlike Jewish and Muslim traditions that had always The Orange Scarf, 1927. put great emphasis on personal hygiene). After the notion of germs and the connection Oil on panel, 41 x 33 cm, between health and hygiene had been established by Louis Pasteur and others in the mid Private Collection. nineteenth century, cleanliness and bathing received greater emphasis in Europe too. As late as the 1880s when the luxurious Savoy Hotel was built in London, eyebrows were raised at the 50 Page 52-53 quantities of en suite bathrooms. But by the inter-war period every middle-class household La Belle Rafaëla in Green, 1927. included a bathroom, that was likely to be the most modern and best designed room in the Oil on canvas, 38 x 61 cm, house with germ-free ceramic, glass and chromed metal surfaces. Lavish bathrooms figure Private Collection, Paris. largely in the movies of the period. Unfortunately the publicity photos of de Lempicka’s rue TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:43 8:37 PM Page AM Page 51 51 Art Deco 51 TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 12/3/2005 8:59 AM Page 52 TS Lempicka 4C.qxp 12/3/2005 8:59 AM Page 53 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:44 8:37 PM Page AM Page 54 54 The Life 54 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/14/2005 3:44 PM 9:05 Page AM 55 Page 55 Art Deco Méchain apartment do not show her bathroom, but from the design aesthetic of the rest of the interiors we can well imagine what it must have looked like. One of the most iconic images of the Jazz Age and perhaps de Lempicka’s most frequently reproduced picture is the self-portrait at the wheel of an open-topped Bugatti sports car in de Lempicka’s favourite “poison green”, commissioned by the German Fashion magazine Die Dame in 1925. The tight driver’s helmet that masks her permed blond hair and makes her look more like an aviator than a motorist, and her cool impervious stare characterise her as a thoroughly independent and self-confident modern woman. Like the sewing machine and the type-writer in the previous generation (that provided employment however humble inside and outside the home), the motor car contributed significantly to the emancipation of women, if only those at the upper end of the economic scale. De Lempicka monogrammed this picture with her initials, looking like an industrial logo on the door of the car. Throughout the Art Deco period de Lempicka showed her allegiance to the machine aesthetic by signing her pictures in printed letters that look like industrial typeface in contrast to the flowing calligraphy favoured by the more painterly artists of the Belle Epoque. As Arsène Alexandre suggested, de Lempicka’s modernity also lay in her combination of coolness and sensuality and a certain ambiguity. Though he is too discreet to spell it out, this ambiguity was sexual. Amongst the value systems that had been thrown into question by the unparalleled catastrophe of the First World War were traditional concepts of gender. The 1920s in Paris might be termed a heroic age of Lesbianism. Back in the nineteenth century when Queen Victoria reputedly denied the existence of lesbianism, it flourished in the brothels of Paris, if we are to believe the clandestine guide-books produced for English speaking sex tourists to the City of Light. In 1930 Colette began publishing a series of essays in the Parisian weekly Gringoire that were eventually collected and published in book form under the title of The Pure and the Impure, in which she revealed the shadowy life of well-healed lesbians in the early years of the century. Though the initial run of articles was interrupted, apparently in response to negative responses, Page 54 the very fact that such a well-known and respected author could publish such material showed Double “47”, c. 1924. Oil on panel, the profound change of attitudes towards homosexuality and lesbianism that had taken place 46 x 38 cm, Private Collection. since the First World War. The war itself had much to do with this. When millions of young men departed for the slaughter of the western Front, women were forced into new roles and Page 55 many were released from domestic slavery. After the war there was no turning back. Changing Alfred Wolmark, Double portrait. roles were reflected in the changing appearance of women – bobbed hair and la ligne à la mode Oil on canvas. Victor Arwas Gallery, – boyish figures with flattened breasts and narrow hips. Throughout the western world popular London. 55 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:44 8:37 PM Page AM Page 56 56 The Life songs such as Masculine men and feminine women or Eh! Ah! Maria! T’est’y une fille ou bien un gars? and Hannelore (with her pretty boys haircut and smoking jacket who has “a bridegroom and a bride” in Claire Waldoff’s song) mocked or celebrated the new androgynous look. Berlin was the capital in which traditional sexual mores and gender roles broke down most spectacularly. According to Stefan Zweig “Berlin transformed itself into the Babel of the world. Bars, amusement parks and pubs shot up like mushrooms – made up boys with artificial waistlines promenaded along the Kurfurstendam – and not only the professionals. Every high school pupil wanted to make some money and in the darkened bars one could see high public officials and financiers courting drunken sailors without shame. Even the Rome of Suetonius had not known orgies like Berlin’s Transvestite balls. Amid the general collapse of values, a kind of insanity took hold of precisely those middle-class circles which had hitherto been unshakable in their order. Young ladies proudly boasted that they were perverted. To be suspected of virginity at the age of sixteen would have been considered a disgrace in every school in Berlin.” If Berlin was notorious for its transvestite balls, Paris was undoubtedly the lesbian capital of the world in the 1920s. The relative acceptance of lesbianism in inter-war Paris allowed for the opening of well-known lesbian night spots such as Le Monocle and sympathetic and even glamorous representations of lesbians in French movies such as Symphonie Pathétique in 1928 and La Garçonne in 1936. This tolerance attracted to Paris creative and unconventional women from all over the world. Gertrude Stein and Alice B.Toklas and Nathalie Barney and Romaine Brooks, the best known Parisian lesbian couples had been in the city from before the war and they were joined there in the 1920s by the novelist Djuna Barnes, the journalist Janet Flanner, Sylvia Beach, proprietor of the famous English language bookshop Shakespeare and Co. De Lempicka dismissed Gertrude Stein and Ernest Hemingway as “boring people who wanted to be what they were not. He wanted to be a woman and she wanted to be a man.” She did attend the salon of Nathalie Barney and Romaine Brooks, but with her frivolous and somewhat snobbish hedonism it is difficult to imagine de Lempicka attending book readings at Adrienne Monnier’s La Maison des Amis des Livres or contributing much to the feminist or lesbian intellectual life of Paris. Long before the term was invented, de Lempicka might have been described as a “Lipstick lesbian.” However she did take her role as a woman artist seriously enough to exhibit with the group FAM (Femmes Artistes Modernes) in the 1930s. De Lempicka was never reticent about her sexual interest in her own sex. A photograph of her bedroom taken for publicity purposes in 1928 shows the portrait of the amazonian Duchesse de La Salle looming over her bed and the head board is decorated with a design made by de Lempicka herself showing two woman rapturously entwined with one another. The message could not have been louder or clearer. De Lempicka began having sexual relationships with women early in her marriage. From 1922, she embarked on an affair with Ira Perrot that survived several tempestuous years, despite the multitude of de Lempicka’s infidelities with both sexes. Ira Perrot posed for the first picture 56 Page 57 that de Lempicka exhibited at the Salon d’Automne and again for another portrait towards the Spring, 1930. Oil on panel, end of their relationship in 1930. In this second portrait, the serpentine pose and the way de 41 x 33 cm, Private Collection. Lempicka fills the whole canvas from top to bottom with the twisting body of her lover, creates a TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:44 8:37 PM Page AM Page 57 57 Art Deco 57 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:44 8:37 PM Page AM Page 58 58 The Life 58 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:44 8:37 PM Page AM Page 59 59 Art Deco sense of intimacy and oppressive voluptuousness. The erotic mood is reinforced by the bouquet of arum lilies clutched by the sitter. Like Georgia O’Keeffe, de Lempicka seems to have been fascinated by the suggestive form of the flowers and painted arum lilies on several occasions. De Lempicka painted two portraits of well-known lesbians – the Duchesse de La Salle and the model and night club singer Suzy Solidor. The Duchesse is shown as an amazone, powerful and masculine. As she is painted against a cubist urban background, her black riding boots suggest the dominatrix rather than healthy outdoor pursuits. The half-length nude portrait of Suzy Solidor (also against a city background) is one of de Lempicka’s least problematic female nudes with neither the eye-rolling pathos nor the oppressive passivity of most of the others. It is also exceptional amongst her portraits in being quite strongly individualised and actually looking like the sitter as we can tell from contemporary photographs. Every artist in Paris wanted to paint the tall, blond Solidor. Amongst the 225 portraits of herself that she collected were works by Foujita, Marie Laurencin, Kisling, Picabia and Van Dongen. De Lempicka’s portrait dates from 1933, the year in which Suzy Solidor opened a smart cabaret called La Vie Parisienne and launched herself as a successful singer. In the same year on May 10th, in a deep voice that Cocteau characterised as coming straight from her sex, she recorded the song Ouvre that has been dubbed “the secret hymn of sapphism.” In fact it is not so secret – “Open your trembling knees, open your thighs, open everything that can be opened etc.” With all the predatory boldness of a man, de Lempicka would pick up women who attracted her in public places and proposition them to pose for her in the nude. One was propositioned at the Théâtre de Paris and another in the Bois de Boulogne. De Lempicka recalled the latter encounter ‘Suddenly I became aware of a woman walking some distance in front of me. As she walks, everyone coming in the opposite direction stops and looks at her. They turn their heads as she passes by. I am curious. What is so extraordinary that they are doing this? I walk very quickly until I pass her, then I turn around and come back down the path in the opposite direction then I see why everyone stops. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen – huge black eyes, beautiful sensuous mouth, beautiful body. I stop her and say to her “Mademoiselle, I’m a painter and I would like you to pose for me. Would you do this?” She says “Yes. Why not?” And I say “Yes come. My car is here.” I took her home in my car, we had Page 58 lunch and after lunch, in my studio, I said “undress, I want to paint you.” She undressed The Convalescent, 1932. without any shame. I said “Lay down on the sofa here.” She lay. Every position was art – Oil on panel, 56 x 42 cm, perfection and I started to paint her, and I painted her for over a year.’ One of the resulting Private Collection. canvases was La Belle Rafaela in Green - amongst the most potently erotic works of de Lempicka in which the desire of the artist for the soft and curvaceous body of the model is palpable. De Lempicka understood, like any purveyor of soft-core pornography, that partial nudity Page 60 Maternit y, 1928. can be more titillating than full nudity. She enjoyed painting her female models in expensive Oil on panel, 35 x 27 cm, underwear and, as in the case of the soulful Convalescent with a nipple provocatively exposed. Private Collection. There is also a very special erotic tension in de Lempicka’s portrayals of paired women. It was a motif she treated frequently including The Orange Scarf (1927), The Bride (1928), Sharing Page 61 Secrets (1928), The Green Turban (1929) The Girls (c.1930) and Spring (1930). The pink Shirt I, c. 1925. Double 47, a depiction of two heads apparently painted from the same model, suggests a pair of rather masculine lesbians with short-cropped hair. Oil on panel, 41 x 33 cm, Private Collection. 59 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:45 8:37 PM Page AM Page 60 60 The Life 60 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/11/2005 12/6/2005 9:01 8:37 AM Page AM Page 61 61 Art Deco 61 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:46 8:37 PM Page AM Page 62 62 The Life De Lempicka painted several canvases of passively and voluptuously posed groups of female nudes that recall the very male view of harem fantasy pictures by nineteenth century artists such as Ingres and Gérôme. Perhaps the most disturbing paintings by de Lempicka to modern viewers are the portraits she made of young girls including those of her daughter Kizette. Once again these evoke the gaze of the male voyeur rather than that of a woman and a mother in the way they fixate on the young girl’s legs and the often suggestive shadows between them. Kizette in Pink aged barely eight or nine, eyes up the viewer with a gaze as knowing as that of Tamara herself in the photo taken of her in Monte Carlo in 1911. As she freely admitted, de Lempicka picked up men in the same masculine and predatory way as she did women. “I refused myself nothing. I had always “Innamorato”, always. For my inspiration, I liked to go out in the evenings and have a good-looking man tell me how beautiful I am or how great an artist I am – and he touches my hand…I loved it! I needed that. And I had many, many.” One of her rare male nudes, the superbly muscular figure, seen from the back in Adam and Eve was painted from a young policeman picked up on the streets of the Left Bank. ‘When I finished the sketch (of the female model) I went out into the streets. This was the artist’s quarter. I had before me the vision of Adam and Eve. In the street nearby I saw a gendarme, a policeman on his beat. He was young, he was handsome. I said to him: “Monsieur, I am an artist and I need a model for my painting. Would you pose for me?” And he said “Of course, Madame. I am myself an artist. At what time do you require me?” We made arrangements. He came to my studio after work and said; “How shall I pose?” “In the nude” He took off his things and folded them neatly on the chair, placing his big revolver on the top. I set him on the podium and then called my model. “You are Adam and here is your Eve” I said’. It is worth pausing at this point to compare de Lempicka with two other woman painters of the period with a specifically lesbian sensibility – the American Romaine Brooks and the German Jewish Lotte Laserstein. Born into a wealthy American family in 1874, Romaine Brooks had her first success with an exhibition at the prestigious Durand-Ruel Gallery (associated with the rise of Impressionism) in Paris in 1910. Though there was only fifteen years between Brooks’ debut and that of de Lempicka, the two events were separated by the great watershed of the First World War and the artists seem to belong to two entirely different generations and different worlds. There were, however many mutual friends and acquaintances and de Lempicka was a frequent guest in the house of Romaine Brooks’ lover Nathalie Barney. There was a certain piquancy in the fact that the militantly lesbian Brooks had succumbed to the lecherous advances of the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio (to the good humoured resignation of Nathalie Barney) while the younger de Lempicka would later reject them. Brooks and de Lempicka also had a mutual friend in Jean Cocteau who seemed to glide effortlessly from one social and cultural world to another over a period of half a century. Page 63 62 Both Brooks and de Lempicka possessed a solid basis of academic draughtsmanship and The Dream, 1927. Oil on canvas, both combined elements of realism with decorative stylisation. The roots of Brooks’ style are in 81 x 60 cm, Mrs. Àntonia the Belle Époque and the Art Nouveau style rather than in the Jazz Age Moderne of de Schulman’s Collection, New York. Lempicka. The most striking comparison between these two women artists is provided by TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/11/2005 12/6/2005 9:28 8:37 AM Page AM Page 63 63 Art Deco 63 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:46 8:37 PM Page AM Page 64 64 The Life Page 64 Irene and Her Sister, 1925. Oil on canvas, 146 x 89 cm, Irena Hochman Fine Art Ltd., New York. 64 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:46 8:37 PM Page AM Page 65 65 Art Deco Brooks’ portrait of Una, Lady Troubridge and de Lempicka’s of the Marquise de La Salle – two icons of 1920s lesbianism painted within a year of one another in 1924 and 1925. The chunky Marquise and the pencil thin English lady are both in male attire and guiltless of the least hint of feminine curves. The masculinity of the Marquise is suggested by her heavy black riding boots while that of Lady Troubridge is conveyed by proxy through the pair of phallic dachshunds that seem to emerge from her hips. Each surveys the viewer challengingly. Lady Una sports that badge of inter-war lesbianism – a monocle. Lotte Laserstein was an exact contemporary of de Lempicka, born in 1898 in a small East Prussian town now incorporated into Poland. In the 1920s Laserstein lived in Berlin, probably the only city more tolerant of deviance from sexual norms than Paris. The trajectory of Laserstein’s career went in tandem with that of de Lempicka – a period of brilliance from the mid 1920s to 1933 – exile in the late 30s followed by neglect and artistic decline and finally by belated discovery. This remarkable artist had to wait a lot longer than de Lempicka for the recognition she deserved. Happily she lived long enough to enjoy her rediscovery in the 1990s, dying at the advanced age of 94 in 1993. Laserstein’s neo-realist style lacks the superficial trappings of modernism adopted by de Lempicka. Her sober and immaculate technique is closer to that of the nineteenth century realist Wilhelm Leibl than any of her avant-garde Berlin contemporaries. Though the female nude was one of her principal subjects, her work lacks the obvious loucheness of de Lempicka and indeed of her fellow Berlin neo realists Otto Dix and Christian Schad. Her modernity lies in a certain gritty truthfulness, far from the glossy glamour of de Lempicka’s portraits and in a sensibility apparent particularly in her depictions of women. Her many images of paired women in which one depicts an emotional if not necessarily a sexual affinity between them, make an intriguing comparison with those of de Lempicka. Both de Lempicka’s work and that of Laserstein can be seen in the context of a widespread blossoming of more or less hard-edged neorealism in the 1920s, from the Socialist Realism in Stalin’s Russia to the work of Grant Wood and Edward Hopper in the United States and taking in such artists as Stanley Spencer, Dod Procter, Gluck, and Meredith Frampton in Britain, the so-called Neue-Sachlichkeit painters Otto Dix and Christian Schad in Berlin, the Novecento Group, Felice Casorati, Piero Marussig, Ubaldo Oppo in Italy, Josep Togores, Joaquim Sunyer, Francesc d’Assis Gali, Feliu Elia, Francesc Domingo in Spain and Frida Kahlo and Diego Riviera in Mexico. The connotations and meanings of this neo-realism vary from place to place and from artist to artist, but there are often striking visual parallels. This is perhaps not so much a question of Page 65 mutual influences and common sources as of Zeitgeist – the spirit of the time. Lotte Laserstein, Two women. 65 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:46 8:37 PM Page AM Page 66 66 The Life The smooth hard-edged technique and the combination of abstraction and detailed attention to accessories in Stanley Spencer’s portraits such as The Sisters of c.1940 are strongly reminiscent of some of de Lempicka’s female portraits. But his combination of provincial homeliness and profound spirituality is light years from de Lempicka’s urban sophistication. Dod Procter’s Morning which was received with enthusiasm when it was exhibited in 1926 makes a striking comparison with de Lempicka’s The Pink Tunic painted the following year. The poses of the reclining girls seen from above, are almost identical in reverse. In each case we are brought close to the model whose body almost fills the canvas from end to end. Each wears a slip that provocatively exposes the legs and hugs and moulds the torso. The eroticism so discreetly hinted at by Dod Procter is more blatantly expressed by de Lempicka, whose model sports a fashionable hair style, rouged lips and a luxurious and gaudily coloured silk slip that invites the touch of the viewer. Procter’s model whose eyes are closed might actually be asleep and is apparently unaware of the viewer, whereas de Lempicka’s model stares blankly and passively out of the picture. The icy, marmoreal perfection of Meredith Frampton’s portraits offer an Anglo-Saxon virginal version of the Neo-Realist style that entirely lacks the chic and erotic charge of de Lempicka’s work. The nearest we find to de Lempicka’s perverse sensuality on the opposite side of the channel is in the portraits of the lesbian painter Gluck who defiantly depicted herself and her lover with androgynously close-cropped hair in a double profile portrait entitled medallion. There was of course no lack of interest in the variables of human sexuality in the work of de Lempicka’s contemporaries in Berlin who are usually gathered under the label of Neue Sachlichkeit, but here there is an element of social criticism and a fascination with ugliness that would have been very alien to de Lempicka. Otto Dix’s 1925 portrait of the bi-sexual dancer Anita Berber goes far beyond de Lempicka’s Nina de Herrera in its caricatured harshness. Christian Schad, who like so many artists of this generation and type (including de Lempicka herself) produced work of great power and conviction for the short period (c1927-1933) that he was in tune with the times, was probably the Berlin artist closest to de Lempicka. Despite the exquisite technique and the aesthetic beauty of his work though, Schad too was willing to confront and depict aspects of reality from which the elegant Tara would certainly have turned away in disgust. The recording of red blood vessels in the whites of eyes not to mention scars and deformities would have been too much reality for her. 66 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/11/2005 12/6/2005 9:37 8:37 AM Page AM Page 67 67 Art Deco Page 66 Otto Dix, Portrait of the Dancer Anita Berber, 1925. Tempera and oil on panel, 120 x 65 cm, Otto Dix Stiftung, Vaduz. Page 67 Portrait of Romana de La Salle, 1928. Oil on canvas, 162 x 97 cm, Private Collection. 67 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:47 8:37 PM Page AM Page 68 68 The Life 68 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:47 8:37 PM Page AM Page 69 69 Art Deco On the other side of the Atlantic, it was perhaps Georgia O’Keeffe who invites the most interesting comparisons with de Lempicka, both because of her methods of decorative abstraction and decoratively diluted cubism and because of her preoccupation with two motifs dear to de Lempicka – skyscrapers and lilies. O’Keeffe began to exhibit her stylised depictions of New York skyscrapers in 1926, three years ahead of de Lempicka’s adoption of the New York townscape as an ubiquitous backdrop to her portraits. It is quite likely that de Lempicka would have come into contact with the work of the much praised and admired O’Keeffe during her New York sojourn of 1929 to 1930. She would certainly have been intrigued too by the way that O’Keefe used the interiors of flowers to suggest the female sex. De Lempicka first exhibited at the prestigious Salon d’Automne in 1922 a mere two years after she had enrolled with Maurice Denis at the Academie Ranson and from 1923 she exhibited regularly at the Salon des Independents which in the past had shown such great masters as Georges Seurat and Henri Rousseau. Her breakthrough came in 1925 with a one woman show at the Bottega di Poesia in Milan. De Lempicka’s timing was perfect. 1925 saw the triumph of the Art Deco style at the great exhibition of decorative arts in Paris. This show marked not only the highpoint of the style but also the moment of transition from the earlier more florid and heavily decorated version of the style to the sleeker more streamlined version of the style that flourished until the Second World War. Though she was in fact exhibiting elsewhere at the time, de Lempicka will forever be associated with the moment of the 1925 Paris exhibition. For the best part of a decade she rode the crest of a wave as perhaps the most representative painter of the later version of the Art Deco style. The name Art Deco derives from a contraction of the French exhibition title Exposition des Arts Decoratives, though it was not coined until many years later and did not come into common usage until the publication of Bevis Hillier’s book Art Deco of the twenties and thirties in 1968. As with many earlier styles (notably the sixteenth century style of mannerism) there has been intense debate over how to define the style. Many differing and conflicting definitions have been offered and doubts have even been expressed as to whether it was a coherent style at all. As a stylistic term invented for architecture and the decorative arts, it may be questioned whether it is appropriate to apply it to painting (though when Edward Lucie-Smith wrote a book entitled Art Deco Page 68 painting, it was inevitable that one of de Lempicka’s paintings should be used for the cover Arums, c. 1931. Oil on panel, illustration). In an article entitled defining Art Deco published in 1982, Martin Greif wrote “I 92 x 60 cm, James and Patricia suspect that the term Art Deco should really be Art Decos (accent on the plural), each of which Cayne’s Collection. (if we take the trouble to observe them carefully) can be separated from the others.” De Lempicka’s art is not representative of all these different Art Decos. She seems for example to Page 69 have been little interested in all the various strains of non-European influences that permeated Georgia O’Keeffe, Black Iris III, 1926. the style. She was immune to the Egyptomania that followed the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Oil on canvas, 91.4 x 75.9 cm. tomb in 1923, the Chinese Art Deco found in cinemas, and more surprisingly perhaps her art Metropolitan Muuseum of Art. 69 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:47 8:37 PM Page AM Page 70 70 The Life shows no trace of the craze for everything African and Afro-American that swept Paris following the sensational arrival of Josephine Baker and the Revue Nègre in 1925 (an event as seminal in its way as the arrival of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes sixteen years earlier). Apart from the headboard of her bed adorned with lesbian lovers frolicking in a stylised jungle, there is little trace either in her work or in the design of her apartment of the kind of geometricised floral decoration so evident in the 1925 Paris exhibition. Nevertheless de Lempicka’s art perfectly fulfils most of the criteria listed by Charlotte and Tim Benton in their attempt at an inclusive definition of the Art Deco style in their introduction to the catalogue of the Art Deco exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2003. “We can try to identify some of the features that link the apparently antithetical works ascribed to Art Deco. They often refer to historic styles, whether western or non-western, but are not literally dependent on them, though they are often respectful of them. They are often influenced by avant-garde art and design yet, unlike these, they make no claim to being disinterested and are, in fact, thoroughly contingent and engaged with the commercial world. But whether inspired by traditional or by avant-garde sources, they have a tendency to simplified form and an absence of three-dimensional, applied ornament. They are “decorative” even when they do not employ ornament; and they frequently stress “surface” values or effects. They are often novel or innovative – but not radical or revolutionary. They frequently employ new technologies even when their forms and methods also reference tradition. They often refer, overtly or symbolically, to “modern” themes, such as youth, liberated sexuality and aspects of contemporary mechanical culture, through a recurrent visual repertoire of frozen fountains, sunbursts, electrification, mechanisation and transportation.” The commercialism of de Lempicka’s work is apparent in its striking similarity with fashion illustration. Like de Lempicka, the fashion illustrators of the twenties and early thirties absorbed elements from avant-garde art movements, notably cubism and futurism, to create a style that was modern and at the same time decorative and accessible to a wider public. In 1908 when the great Parisian couturier Paul Poiret initiated one of the most radical revolutions in the history of women’s fashion by jettisoning the upholstered and heavily corseted look of the Belle Epoque and adopting a more svelte and streamlined look for women, he also launched a golden age of fashion illustration by commissioning Paul Iribe to illustrate an album entitled Les Robes de Paul Poiret. Iribe’s illustrations with their firm contours and flat bright colours reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints were as revolutionary as Poiret’s designs. In one fell swoop they swept away the dry and factual style of nineteenth century fashion illustration and opened up the way for nearly two decades of extraordinarily inventive and exciting fashion illustrations in such periodicals as the Gazette du Bon Ton, Modes et Manières d’aujourd’hui, Journal des Dames et des Modes, Luxe de Paris, Art Goût Beauté, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Die Dame. Amongst the artists who contributed to this explosion of creativity were Georges Lepape, André Marty, Charles Martin, Benito, Georges Barbier, Pierre Brissand, Helen Dryden, 70 Page 71 Harriet Meserole and Ernst Dryden. These artists were thieving magpies, always in search of The Musician, 1929. novelty and casting their eyes over the latest innovations of the avant-garde. We find, often Oil on canvas, 116 x 73 cm, blended together, the shocking colours of the fauves, the angularity and fragmented Barry Friedman Ltd., New York. perspectives of the cubists, the dynamic lines of the futurists, the streamlined abstraction of TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/11/2005 12/6/2005 9:38 8:37 AM Page AM Page 71 71 Art Deco 71 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:48 8:37 PM Page AM Page 72 72 The Life 72 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:48 8:37 PM Page AM Page 73 73 Art Deco Brancusi and the unexpected juxtapositions and dream logic of the surrealists. In the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar we find many of the same motifs that we see in the paintings of de Lempicka - the abstracted, metallic forms and surfaces, the Manhatten back-drops and naturally the fashionable clothes and accessories. As well as stealing from the fine artists, the fashion magazines sometimes invited them to design covers too. Leon Bakst, Marie Laurencin, Pavel Tchelitchew, Raoul Dufy, Pierre Roy and Salvador Dali all contributed to Vogue. So happily does de Lempicka’s art fit in with the world of fashion magazines that it seems surprising that she designed covers for neither the American nor the French versions of Vogue. However she was invited to create several cover designs for the leading German fashion magazine Die Dame. Amongst these was the 1925 Bugatti self-portrait that has become her most famous and frequently reproduced image. With an average circulation of 60,000 and plentiful colour illustrations of the highest possible quality, Die Dame was a luxurious and prestigious publication. Not devoted exclusively to fashion, Die Dame had pretensions to high culture and was really a hybrid art, literary and fashion magazine. The work of such serious writers as André Maurois, Colette and Stefan Zweig was serialised and in some cases first published in the magazine. Die Dame was rather more daring than Vogue in the kind of modern artists that it was prepared to employ or publicise. The anarchistic Dada collagist Hanna Höch was a surprising choice for one cover. There were articles on Max Pechstein and George Grosz. Whereas the artists patronised by Vogue all had a veneer of fashionable sophistication, the primitivism of Max Pechstein and the Grosz’s excoriating images of Berlin low life were far removed from the world of Haute Couture. Probably the most frequently employed illustrator for the pages and covers of Die Dame between 1926 and 1933 was the Austrian born and Paris based artist Ernst Dryden. One cannot help wondering if Dryden had something to do with the choice of the equally Paris based de Lempicka for covers for the German magazine. There are certainly striking parallels between the work of Dryden and de Lempicka. In 1930 for example, Dryden produced a cover design showing an elegant woman clutching a small dog and standing in front of a Bugatti. His cover Page 72 for November 1928 showing a languid beauty in the middle of a vast circle of sports cars all Portrait of Mrs. M., 1932. pointed lustfully towards her, is an image of the Jazz Age Woman to match that of Tamara’s Oil on canvas, 100 x 65 cm, Bugatti self-portrait. Private Collection. The celebrity that Tamara’s covers for Die Dame brought her in Germany proved useful in 1934 when she carelessly travelled to Berlin without the requisite papers. In her own words;- Page 74 ‘Hitler was not long in power, but already the streets were filled with Nazi uniforms and the Portrait of the Marquis d’Af f lito people were afraid. At lunch in the hotel my friend says to me, “I am so happy to see you, but (On a Staircase), 1925. how did you get a permit to come?” And I say; “Permit, what permit?” She becomes terribly Oil on canvas, 116 x 73 cm, upset. “This is terrible,” she says. “We must go to the police at once.” We leave the hotel. We Private Collection. go to the police. They are rude. They take away my passport. They ask my friend many questions. Finally they take me to the chief authority. He is sitting behind a big desk in a big Page 75 room. He is wearing the Nazi uniform and the red band on his arm. He had my papers. He Portrait of Marquis Sommi, 1925. looks at them and frowns. “Madame Lempicka, you are a French citizen?” “Yes I am.” “And Oil on canvas, 100 x 73 cm, you live in Paris?” “Yes I do.” “And why do you stop in Berlin with no permit?” He looks at Private Collection. 73 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/11/2005 12/6/2005 9:38 8:37 AM Page AM Page 74 74 The Life 74 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 12/14/2005 12/6/2005 4:03 8:37 PM Page AM Page 75 75 Art Deco 75 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:48 8:37 PM Page AM Page 76 76 The Life me. I am afraid, but I do not show this. I tell him. He looks again at my papers, then he asks, “Are you the same Mme Lempicka who paints the covers of Die Dame? “Yes, I am.” “Ah,” he says, coming around the desk to shake my hand. “I am so pleased to meet you. My wife is most fond of your paintings; in fact, we have collected all your covers from the magazine. I will let you pay the fine, the lightest punishment, and you may go. But you must never come back to Germany.” De Lempicka’s commissioned portraits all date from the relatively short period between her triumphant 1925 exhibition in Milan and 1933 when the Depression began to bite in France and changes in economic circumstances as well as changes in taste which caused the flow of commissions to dry up. Collectively these commissioned portraits form a portrait of a class and period that is perhaps de Lempicka’s greatest achievement. By and large de Lempicka paints men more as individuals, however glamorised, and women more as types. There was nothing new in this. Most professional portraitists have been men and male artists have tended to relate to their male sitters on a more human level while objectifying their female sitters. Lely, Kneller, Reynolds and Ingres are all examples of artists whose male portraits are far more sharply characterised than their female ones. Though Ingres adored painting women, he often seems far more interested in what they are wearing than in what they are thinking. From his famous trio of portraits of the Riviere family, we would certainly recognise Monsieur Riviere from across a crowded room whereas Madame and Mademoiselle Riviere might stand out in a chorus line of lovely women by their strange anatomical deformities but not by their faces. With the exception of André Gide and possibly her architect brother in-law Pierre de Montaut, none of de Lempicka’s male sitters are artists or intellectuals. Many have titles. The handsome Count Vettor Marcello painted with casual open necked shirt in front of a yacht is the perfect image of the playboy. Though the Marquess Sommi wrote music and mixed in avant-garde artistic circles we cannot believe that the role in society of this beautiful man with his slicked back hair, manicured eyebrows, padded shoulders and emerald signet ring, was anything other than ornamental. De Lempicka’s male portraits can seem critical or even faintly mocking of their subjects, the portrait of the notoriously decadent Grand Duke Gabriel Constantinovitch verges upon the caricatural with his arrogant expression and a uniform that looks like a cast-off from a Ruritanian operetta production. Perhaps the most complex and telling of all her male portraits is that of her husband Tadeusz de Lempicki painted in 1928. Humiliated beyond endurance by Tamara’s flagrant infidelities, as well no doubt by her social and artistic successes, de Lempicka announced that he was leaving his wife for another woman while this portrait was being painted. De Lempicka captures an expression of shiftiness and wary suspicion on the face of this handsome man whom she had once loved but no longer respected. Furious at being deserted for another woman, de Lempicka left the right hand unfinished and exhibited the picture under the ambiguous title Portrait d’homme inachevé. The wariness of de Lempicki contrasts with the impression of confident dynamism made by 76 Page 77 Dr. Boucard in the portrait he commissioned in 1928. The wealthy doctor, inventor of the Portrait of Count Vettor Marcello, patent medicine lactéol, paid handsomely for the portraits of himself, his wife and his daughter c. 1933. Oil on panel, 35 x 27 cm, Arlette. His investment paid off in the striking portrait that immortalises him as a scientist Private Collection. dandy with white coat and a pearl tie pin. His dynamism is suggested by his coiled pose and TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:48 8:37 PM Page AM Page 77 77 Art Deco 77 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:48 8:37 PM Page AM Page 78 78 The Life 78 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:48 8:37 PM Page AM Page 79 79 Art Deco also by the angular planes of the background that are reminiscent of an expressionist movie. Altogether Dr. Boucard looks like an actor playing the part of a brilliant doctor in a film. The gleaming microscope and test tube are used like the attributes in a Renaissance portrait to intimate his scientific interests. A particularly sympathetic portrait of another professional man is that of de Lempicka’s brother-in-law Pierre de Montaut. De Lempicka makes a feature of his glasses and the way the thick glass distorts the outline of his cheek. Pierre de Montaut was a modernist architect. For once the urban backdrop is not made up of generalised cubes but is a recognisable depiction of the buildings on the rue Mallet-Stevens, a showpiece of modern design by and named after the architect who designed the apartment block in which de Lempicka herself lived. The commissions for de Lempicka’s female portraits usually came from their wealthy husbands. What she offers is a series of spectacular images of “trophy” wives. The first of these was Mrs. Rufus Bush. In the spring of 1929 Rufus Bush, whose family owned the Bush Terminal in New York, turned up at de Lempicka’s studio with a request to paint his fiancée. Impressed with the beauty of the girl and with the young man’s air of wealth, de Lempicka agreed to follow the couple to New York for sittings, having quadrupled her original asking price. Travelling on the luxury liner Paris (surely the perfect setting for this artist who was the living embodiment of Art Deco) de Lempicka arrived in New York in September 1929. Like so many visitors to New York in this period de Lempicka instantly fell in love with New York’s skyline, which like countless other tourists and émigrés she would have first seen from the decks of the approaching liner. From this moment a stylised version of Manhattan becomes the standard backdrop to her portraits, even those painted in Paris, when she wanted to give her sitters an air of modernity and urban sophistication. Mrs Bush is shown against just such a background in a simple red tailored jacket and black skirt picked out with much care by de Lempicka herself. She is coltishly androgynous – more garconne than amazone and not obviously suited to the role of “trophy wife.” In fact the marriage was of very short duration and the portrait disappeared from view until after the revival of de Lempicka’s reputation. By contrast with Mrs Bush, Mrs. Alan Bott looks every inch the luxury wife. Her height is emphasised by the vertical format of the canvas and the skyscrapers behind her. Her body Page 78 forms a graceful curve from top left to bottom right of the canvas with the top of her head and Wide Brimmed Hat, 1933. elegantly shoed left foot cut off at top and bottom. She provocatively lifts the hem of her skirt Oil on panel, 46 x 38 cm, to expose her knees. So flimsy and transparent is her lacy dress, under which she appears to Private Collection. wear no underwear that she need not have bothered as every detail of her anatomy from her nipples to her thighs is clearly visible. The exquisite but minimal dress contrasts piquantly with Page 80 the chunky luxuriousness of the Cartier style diamond and emerald bracelet and the High Summer, 1928. sumptuous fur collared and silk lined coat that she trails negligently beneath her. The “jungle Oil on panel, 35 x 27 cm, red” of her painted fingernails and lurid lips and the bruised languor of her eyes give her a Private Collection. sinister allure. Despite her tender years she looks as if she has lived for centuries. It was not until after her delayed return from New York that de Lempicka was able to fulfil Page 81 her commission from Dr. Boucard by painting his wife. The Juno-esque Madame Boucard is The Straw Hat, 1930. older than most of de Lempicka’s other female portraits but is just a more mature version of the Oil on panel, 35 x 27 cm, luxury wife. The Parisian Madame Boucard is given the generic New York backdrop. Her Private collection. 79 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:49 8:37 PM Page AM Page 80 80 The Life 80 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:49 8:37 PM Page AM Page 81 81 Art Deco 81 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:49 8:37 PM Page AM Page 82 82 The Life serpentine pose spirals from bottom left to close to the top of the picture. She seems to have shopped at the same luxury stores as Mrs. Bott, and though, as is appropriate to her age, her dress is somewhat more discreet, her cone-like breasts and erect nipples project clearly through the metallic sheen of her white dress. The first of the Boucard family portraits was in fact that of the daughter Arlette, painted in 1928. The adolescent girl is shown reclining and fills the long horizontal canvas from end to end, with her elbow cut off at one end and her feet at the other. In the background we see the harbour of Cagnes with Dr. Boucard’s yacht Lactéol (named after the patent medicine from which he made his fortune). The name Lactéol is picked out in white against the dark hull of the ship. The seemingly unpopulated harbour town looks oddly gloomy and ominous. It is strikingly similar to the harbour town in the background of the portrait of Count Vettor Marcello painted several years later, suggesting that the backgrounds of de Lempicka’s portraits are often interchangeable. Despite her youth Arlette appears as ageless and as enigmatic as the sphinx. As is often the case with de Lempicka’s female portraits and nudes, she seems preoccupied with the knees and the rather suggestive shadows between them (one thinks of Suzy Solidor’s urgent and throbbing cry “Ouvre tes genoux tremblantes”). Perhaps young Arlette took Tamara’s fancy. She appears four years later in the superb Arlette Boucard with Arums in a framed glamorous soft focus black and white photograph resting on a glass table top. We know that de Lempicka possessed this photograph as it is visible in a photograph of her studio. There also seems to be some erotic meaning in the suggestively convoluted forms of the arum lilies, one of which almost seems to grow out of Arlette Boucard’s head. The lilies, taken to the edge of the canvas reach out towards the viewer, their serpentine stalks fractured by the transparent glass vase that seems to slide down the tilted table-top. This picture is yet another celebration of de Lempicka’s love of glossy surfaces and transparent materials. Amongst the last commissioned portraits of de Lempicka’s Art Deco phase is the alarming 1933 Portrait of Miss Poum Rachou. De Lempicka takes a low viewpoint and fills the narrow vertical canvas from top to bottom with the little girl’s figure, making her loom large, rather as the Hülsenbeck children do in Philip Otto Runge’s famous portrait of them. This is certainly no sentimental image of fragile childhood. Miss Poum Rachou’s metallic locks, icily unfocussed eyes, rouged lips and her exposed legs make her seem disturbingly adult and sexual, despite the rather fierce looking teddy that she clutches. Amongst de Lempicka’s commissioned portraits of women, that of the Spanish dancer Nana de Herrera is exceptional in that it was commissioned not by a husband but by a lover. Nana de Herrera’s carnivorously vampish sensuality is exaggerated to the point of parody. De Lempicka makes the celebrated dancer look like a superannuated, provincial Carmen. The element of cruelty in this characterisation seems all the more pointed when one knows that Nana de Herrera’s lover was Baron Kuffner who dropped Nana for Tamara and became Tamara de Lempicka’s second husband. No doubt a certain sense of rivalry with a former mistress 82 Page 83 accounts for the bitchiness of de Lempicka’s description of how she painted the portrait – “I Portrait of Miss Poum Rachou, 1933. told him (Kuffner) that I had heard of her and that she must be very beautiful, if she was a Oil on canvas, 92 x 46 cm, dancer. He said “I will call her and tell her to come to see you.” I was very surprised. When she Private Collection. came to my studio, she was not chic. I thought “Oh no. I don’t want to paint her. I cannot TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:49 8:37 PM Page AM Page 83 83 Art Deco 83 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:49 8:37 PM Page AM Page 84 84 The Life 84 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:49 8:37 PM Page AM Page 85 85 Art Deco believe that’s the famous Nana de Herrera. Well,” I thought “let’s try.” So, in my studio, I said “sit down.” And I said, “take this off.” So she takes it off. I don’t like it. “The hair” I said “how do you have your hair done?” “Oh,” she said, “just with a flower.” “So where is the flower?” Finally, I took everything off, until she was nude. Then I added lace here, there. I said “cover up a little bit here, here, and here. As long as she was dressed it was impossible. So ugly. I couldn’t believe it. And I thought, “this man has very bad taste.” But when she was nude, then she was a little more interesting. Still, as long as she sat there, she was nobody. And I said, “No, no, no.” And I was about to give up this portrait, not do it at all, until I said, “when you dance, how do you look?” And she did this expression. And I said, “that’s alright,” and then I painted her.” One cannot but feel sorry for poor Nana de Herrera who not only lost her man but also had to endure such humiliating treatment at the hands of the woman who took him. The portraits of Marjorie Ferry and of Mrs. M, both dating from 1932, are remarkable for the way the hands are posed with self-conscious and mannered elegance as though to display the scarlet nail varnish and enormous pearl rings. Hands have always presented a problem to portraitists. The depiction of hands cruelly exposes weaknesses in draughtsmanship as we see in the portraits of Gainsborough and Reynolds and even in a few early portraits by Rembrandt. Many successful portraitists have developed strategies and formulae for dealing with the problem of hands. Van Dyck, for example would have us believe that the entire English aristocracy possessed sensitive, limp-wristed hands with long tapering fingers they tended to hold in splayed poses. John Singer Sargent, who earned the sobriquet of the Van Dyck of Tite St, also resorted to the splayed finger poses when he did not avoid the problem altogether by hiding or blurring the hands. De Lempicka paints hands that look as though constructed from articulated metal parts and that also tend to follow a certain formula. Hands will be sharply bent or pulled back at the wrist. More often than not, her female sitters will separate or crook the little finger, creating an effect of mannered elegance. We see the same care in posing her hands in the photographs of Tamara herself – both in the carefully staged glamour photographs and in the photographs of Tamara in everyday life. Whether dressed or nude, de Lempicka’s women have perfectly manicured fingernails painted in the kind of gaudy, carnivorous “Jungle red” nail polish that played such a pivotal role in the plot of George Cukor’s 1939 movie The Women. Mrs. M’s white dress and the sheet with which Marjorie Ferry covers her nudity seem to be cut from the same material. In both cases it is crumpled into complex folds. De Lempicka was well aware of the role that drapery had played in western art since the Renaissance or indeed since classical Greece. Though she enjoys painting female flesh through lace and transparent materials and the sheen on silks and satins, de Lempicka does not greatly differentiate between the textures of different fabrics. In this she follows the academic doctrines of Sir Joshua Reynolds who maintained in his Discourses that it was the mark of higher art to generalise rather to specify the precise qualities of materials. Like the masters of the Renaissance and the Baroque, de Lempicka often used drapery to fill space and for compositional purposes. Mrs. M.’s blue stole blooms like a flower behind her left shoulder to fill the upper right corner of her Page 84 portrait. The complex folds of Ira Perrot’s orange stole, billowing out behind her, as though Kizette in Pink, c. 1926. lifted like Marilyn Munroe’s skirts in Seven Year Itch by the updraft of an air vent, look as Oil on canvas, 116 x 73 cm, though they have been drawn from a length of material carefully arranged on the floor. Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes. 85 TS Lempicka ENG 4C.qxp P-OK.qxp 11/10/2005 12/6/2005 3:49 8:37 PM Page AM Page 86 86 The Life In each case these brightly coloured scarves offer a strong accent of pure unmodulated colour. De Lempicka was never a particularly subtle or expressive colourist. In her best period, she uses a relatively limited range of bright, clear colours with the crude and simple effectiveness of a poster designer. A bright pure red is used for lips and fingernails. Brick red and a strong pure blue are often used for fabrics in contrast with whites or creams. An acidic “poison” green, sometimes shaded to blue is also used by de Lempicka to great effect. There is never any attempt to analyse or explore the colour of shadows that are painted quite simply brown or black. Probably the grandest of de Lempicka’s commissions during her short heyday as a fashionable portraitist were from Queen Elizabeth of Greece, and the recently deposed King Alfonso of Spain. Though France was the first European country to get rid of its monarchy and in bloody fashion, it was the playground of international royalty and the first port of call for deposed or abdicated monarchs such as Edward VIII of Britain who arrived there on his honeymoon with Wallis Simpson. De Lempicka got on well with Alfonso, though she found his constant talking and lack of concentration rather tiresome during sittings and peremptorily ordered him to keep quiet. She liked to recall that when the ex-King protested “we are not accustomed to being ad