Tamara de Lempicka was a talented Polish painter whose distinctive style rose out of the ashes of the Russian Revolution.
Known for painting nudes in a style which collided cubism and neoclassicism, the fashionista branded herself as the first female artist in history to make ‘recognisable’ work.
Jack Nicholson and Barbara Streisand are collectors of her work, and today Google Doodle is honouring her what would have been her 120th birthday.
Here’s what we know about the life of this bisexual hedonist, who used the money she made from painting to fund her wild lifestyle.
Tamara de Lempicka was born Maria Górska in May 1898 in Warsaw, to a Russian-Jewish lawyer father and a Polish socialite mother.
She made her first portrait, of her younger sister, when she was 10 after taking issue with how badly a local artist employed by her mother had depicted her.img data-src="https://metrouk2.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/sec_12371810.jpg?quality=80&strip=all&crop=0px%2C21px%2C588px%2C441px&resize=100%2C75&zoom=1" width="100" height="75" data-rsz="no" src="data:image/gif;base64,iVBORw0KGgoAAAANSUhEUgAAAAEAAAABCAQAAAC1HAwCAAAAC0lEQVR42mP8/B8AAusB9FD6Pn0AAAAASUVORK5CYII=%20" alt="Picasso painting worth $70,000,000 damaged"">>Picasso painting worth $70,000,000 damaged moments before going on sale
She was educated at a boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland and spent summers with an aunt in St Petersburg, where she met Polish lawyer Tadeusz Łempicki.
They fell in love and married in 1916, but a year later the Russian Revolution changed everything. Łempicki was arrested by the secret police.
Lempicka eventually found her husband by searching prisons and paying for the help of a Swedish consul, and the pair fled to Paris where Tamara’s family were.
In Paris, she studied at the Académie de la Grand Chaumière and was influenced by painters Maurice Denis and André Lhote. She also had a daughter, Kizette, with Łempicki.
Then in 1925 two of her paintings were hung at the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, which later gave its name to the style Art Deco.
The paintings were spotted by American journalists from Harper’s Bazaar and other fashion magazines, and her name became known across the pond.
She said of her style: ‘I was the first woman to paint cleanly, and that was the basis of my success. From a hundred pictures, mine will always stand out.
‘And so the galleries began to hang my work in their best rooms, always in the middle, because my painting was attractive. It was precise. It was “finished”.’
At the same time, Tamara’s entry into the art world meant she began taking male lovers, like the Marquis Sommi Picenardi and Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio.
And after being commissioned to paint baron Raoul Kuffner’s mistress, Nana de Herrera, she painted an unflattering portrait and then replaced Herrerra as the baron’s lover (before becoming his wife in 1934).
Additionally she had relationships with women and during the height of her success in the 1930s befriended prominent bisexual and lesbian artists Vita Sackville-West, Violet Trefusis and Colette.
She once said: ‘I live life in the margins of society, and the rules of normal society don’t apply to those who live on the fringe.’
Following the outbreak of was she moved to the States with her second husband Kuffner, who died in 1961, prompting her to make three round-the-world boat trips and to retire from the art world.
Her paintings were appreciated in the 1960s and 1970s even more than they had been when she first unveiled them because of the resurgence of Art Deco.
After moving to Mexico in the 1970s, De Lempicka died in her sleep on 18 March 1980.
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