Tamara de Lempicka at Sotheby’s New York

Tamara de Lempicka, L’Éclat (detail), signed DE LEMPICKA (upper right), oil on panel, 13¾ by 10½ in. 34.9 by 26.7 cm, Executed circa 1932.

Sotheby’s New York is pleased to present The World of Tamara: A Celebration of Lempicka and Art Deco, a selling exhibition dedicated to the true pioneer and decisive arbiter of Art Deco painting. Tamara de Lempicka’s cosmopolitan portraits are imbued with the opulence and liberated boldness of the années folles: the golden age that overtook Europe in the 1920s and 30s.

Tamara de Lempicka Nu Aux Buildings signed T.DE LEMPICKA. (upper left) oil on canvas 36¼ by 28¾ in. 92 by 73 cm. Executed in 1930.

Tamara Łempicka, born Tamara Rozalia Gurwik-Górska on16th May 1898, better known as Tamara de Lempicka, was a Polish painter who spent her working life in France and the United States. She is best known for her polished Art Deco portraits of aristocrats and the wealthy, and for her highly stylised paintings of nudes. Her first paintings were still lifes and portraits of her daughter Kizette and her neighbour. Her breakthrough came in 1925, with the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, which later gave its name to the style Art Deco. She exhibited her paintings in two of the major venues, the Salon des Tuileries and the Salon des femmes peintres. Her paintings were spotted by American journalists from Harper’s Bazaar and other fashion magazines, and her name became known.[11] In the same year, she had her first major exposition in Milan, Italy, organised for her by Count Emmanuele Castelbarco. For this show, Lempicka painted 28 new works in six months.


She said of her work: “I was the first woman to make clear paintings, and that was the origin of my success … Among a hundred canvases, mine were always recognisable. The galleries tended to show my pictures in the best rooms, because they attracted people. My work was clear and finished. I looked around me and could only see the total destruction of painting. The banality in which art had sunk gave me a feeling of disgust. I was searching for a craft that no longer existed; I worked quickly with a delicate brush. I was in search of technique, craft, simplicity and good taste. My goal: never copy. Create a new style, with luminous and brilliant colours, rediscover the elegance of my models.”

Łempicka in her atelier – National Museum, KrakówWikimedia Commons

Rendered in sleek lines, vibrant metallic hues and geometric forms, her artworks came to epitomize the aesthetic of the Machine Age. Lempicka navigated a turbulent and peripatetic life that, despite its obstacles, afforded her remarkable freedom; she embraced her many lovers, her art, and her international pursuits with equal fervour.

In July 2018, a biographical musical, Lempicka, premiered at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. The show later played at the La Jolla Playhouse, and made its debut on Broadway on March 19th, 2024, starring Eden Espinosa as Lempicka, directed by Tony winner Rachel Chavkin.

Tamara de Lempicka Portrait de Guido Sommi signed T. DE LEMPITZKA (lower left) oil on canvas 53⅛ by 27⅞ in. 134.9 by 70.8 cm. Executed in 1925.

This exhibition offers a window into Lempicka’s world, seamlessly intertwining her arresting portraits with the design, jewellery, photography, and machinery of the period on which she left an indelible mark, and in turn, strongly influenced her oeuvre. This exhibition – coinciding with the Broadway debut of Lempicka: The Musical and in anticipation of the first major US retrospective of her work to open at the de Young Museum in San Francisco this October – represents a significant moment in acknowledging one of the most influential female artists of the early 20th century.

Robert Linzeler for Cartier – Pair of Sterling Silver, Cut Glass and Lacquer Candlesticks, France

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