Born Maria Górska on May 16, 1898 in Warsaw, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire) to a wealthy family, she spent much of her childhood in Switzerland and Italy where she was influenced by the works of Renaissance and Mannerist masters. Living in St.
Petersburg during the 1917 Russian Revolution, she and her husband fled to France to escape the Bolsheviks. During the 1920s, Lempicka became an integral part of the Parisian avant-garde scene and was acquainted with Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide.
It was here that she invented her new persona Tamara de Lempicka, while studying under both Maurice Denis and André Lhote. In 1939, the artist fled the impending threat of World War II for the United States, settling in Los Angeles and later New York. Though she stopped painting for a number of years, a renewed interest in her works during the mid-1960s led her to resume. Lempicka died on March 18, 1980 in Cuernavaca, Mexico.
Today, her works are held in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes in France, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., among others.
Tamara Łempicka (born Maria Górska; 16 May 1898 – 18 March 1980), also known as Tamara de Lempicka, was a Polish painter active in the 1920s and 1930s, 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 stylized paintings of nudes.
Born in Warsaw, Lempicka briefly moved to Saint Petersburg where she married a prominent Polish lawyer, then travelled to Paris. She studied painting with Maurice Denis and André Lhote. Her style was a blend of late, refined cubism and the neoclassical style, particularly inspired by the work of Jean-Dominique Ingres.
She was an active participant in the artistic and social life of Paris between the Wars. In 1928 she became the mistress of wealthy art collector from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Baron Raoul Kuffner. After the death of his wife in 1933, the Baron married Lempicka in 1934, and thereafter she became known in the press as “The Baroness with a Brush.”
Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, she and her husband moved to the United States and she painted celebrity portraits, as well as still-lifes and, in the 1960s, some abstract paintings. Her work was out of fashion after World War II, but made a comeback in the late 1960s, with the rediscovery of Art Deco. She moved to Mexico in 1974, where she died in 1980. At her request, her ashes were scattered over the Popocatapetl volcano.
She was born Maria Górska on 16 May 1898, in Warsaw, then part of the Russian Empire. Her father was Boris Gurwik-Górski, a Russian Jewish attorney for a French trading company, and her mother was Malwina Decler, a Polish socialite who had lived most of her life abroad and who met her husband at one of the European spas.
At the age of ten, her mother commissioned a pastel portrait of her by a prominent local artist. She detested posing, and was dissatisfied with the finished work. She took the pastels, had her younger sister pose, and made her first portrait.
In 1911 her parents sent her to a boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland, but she was bored and she feigned illness to be permitted to leave the school. Instead, her grandmother took her on a tour of Italy, where she developed her interest in art. Her parents divorced in 1912, and her mother remarried.
She returned to the school in Lausanne, but to protest the remarriage of her mother, she refused to spend her holidays with her family. Instead, she spent the summer with her wealthy aunt Stefa in Saint Petersburg. There, in 1915, she met and fell in love with a prominent Polish lawyer, Tadeusz Łempicki (1888–1951). Her family offered him a large dowry, and they were married in 1916 in the chapel of the Knights of Malta in St. Petersburg.
The Russian Revolution in November 1917 overturned their comfortable life. In December 1917, Tadeusz Łempicki was arrested in the middle of the night by the Checka, the secret police. Tamara searched the prisons for him, and with the help of the Swedish consul, to whom she offered her favors, she secured his release. They traveled to Copenhagen then to London and finally to Paris, where Tamara’s family had also found refuge.
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Tamara de Lempicka
Born: May 16, 1898; Warsaw, Poland
Died: March 18, 1980; Cuernavaca, Mexico
Art Movement: Art Deco
Influenced by: Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Pablo Picasso
Teachers: Maurice Denis, André Lhote
Art institution: Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, France
Friends and Co-workers: Georgia O’Keeffe, Willem de Kooning
Tamara De Lempicka
Art Deco Diva
Tamara de Lempicka Facts
About Tamara De Lempicka
Tamara de Lempicka was a Polish painter working in Paris from 1922 to 1939 then in United States and Mexico. Known as the Diva of Art Deco, her “Self-Portrait” , (Tamara in the Green Bugatti), 1929 has been called the “Icon of Modern Woman”. Famous for her polished nudes and vibrant portraits of the jazz age glitterati, she invented her own unique style combining extreme modernism with neo-classicism.
The Google Doodle of May 16, 2018 in celebration of what would have been her 120th birthday was broadcast to 14 nations along with her pictures and bio. It stated: “Few artists embodied the exuberant roaring twenties like Tamara de Lempicka. Her fast-paced opulent lifestyle manifests itself perfectly into the stylized Art Deco subjects she celebrated in her painting.”
The famous German designer Wolfgang Joop, one of her earliest collectors said, “Tamara de Lempicka was the first Pop Star of the century.”
Tamara de Lempicka and Madonna: the singer is the most fervent collector, finding inspiration in Tamara’s daring and heroic life with parallels to her own. Other collectors like Barbra Streisand, Jack Nicholson and Sir Tim Rice as well as designers like Wolfgang Joop and Donna Karan have spearheaded her auction phenomenon.
The Portrait of Marjorie Ferry 1932, the first woman artist featured on the Christie’s London auction catalog, as reported in the Feb. 10, 2020, Wall Street Journal, established a new auction record for Lempicka: $21.2 million. This is the second highest price ever paid for a painting by a female artist.
Her life reads like a mix of “Gone with the Wind” with “The Great Gatsby.” There are a feature length movie and a miniseries about her life in the works, as well as a Musical, on its way to Broadway called “Lempicka.”
“Tamara the Living Movie” concluded as the longest-running play in Los Angeles where Angelica Houston played Tamara, as well as a six-year run in New York.
She never could have dreamed of the technological miracles of the 21st century that are taking her art to new worldwide audiences: immersive experiences with holograms, projections, and music. She would have loved that as she loved to travel and was interested in people from every country and every walk of life.
One of her favorite quotes was, “It doesn’t matter how it begins, if it ends well.”
Since she died in Cuernavaca, Mexico at the age of 82, she has had 14 major solo retrospective exhibitions in Asia, Europe, and Mexico. Her catalogue raisonee has located more than 500 paintings and 250 drawings and we especially hope to locate one stolen by the Nazis, featured in the European series, “Lost Art” and many more that have disappeared during the Russian Revolution, the Spanish Civil war and Two world wars which took place during her lifetime.
We have built this website to communicate with her fans and to remind everyone that although “imitation is a form of flattery,” we as heirs are exclusive copyright holders to her name, likeness, life rights and images which lasts 70 years after her death.
If you should want to license the images for products or partner with us for advertising or another venture born of your imagination, please contact us through this website.
We are committed to overseeing the fidelity of the reproductions in terms of quality and color as only we know and have seen the original colors that she used, derived from mineral pigments, so very hard to reproduce in today’s digital world.
“There are no miracles. There is only what you make.” —Tamara de Lempicka quote
“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’.” —Tamara de Lempicka Quote
Tamara Rozalia Gurwick-Gorska is born in Warsaw, Poland. Her father is a Russian Jewish attorney (Boris Majsijewicz Gurwik-Gorski) and her mother is Malwina Garbryela Gurwicz-Gorska (nee Dekler, var.Decler, Declaire), a Polish socialite.
When Tamara is about 5, her father leaves. She and her sister Adrienne and brother Stanislaw go to live with their mother’s wealthy parents, Klementyna and Bernard Dekler. They have a grand home in Moscow as well as in Warsaw and a summer residence just outside it.
Tamara is taken out of school to travel for several months with her grandmother to Italy and Montecarlo, where her grandmother gambles in the Casino while Tamara is entertained by an art teacher who teaches her to paint on rocks in the gardens.
Klementyna takes Tamara to the art museums of Rome, Florence, and Venice, where the child is enthralled and mesmerized by the Italian Renaissance masters while her grandmother explains some techniques and why each painting is a masterpiece.
Tamara practices her drawing and watercolors in her large sketchbooks showing precocious ability with drawing and colors and fine powers of observation.
She is disappointed with a pastel painting of herself that her mother has commissioned by a famous portraitist of the day and proceeds to paint a fine likeness of her sister which she deems better than her portrait.
Her 17-year-old brother, Stanski, is killed in WW. I. She and the family are devastated. She spends that summer in St. Petersburg visiting her wealthy Aunt Stefa and her husband Constantine Stifter. She meets Tadeusz Junoska Lempicki, a very handsome playboy and Polish lawyer, and falls madly in love.
They marry in the Knights of Malta Chapel in St. Petersburg. September of that year their daughter Marie Christine (Kizette) Lempicka is born.
The Bolshevik Revolution breaks out; Tadeusz is arrested interrogated and jailed by the Cheka secret Police and taken to an unknown prison and probably tortured. Tamara is able to secure his release (through personal favors to the Swedish consul) and flees incognito to Copenhagen. Later reunited with a broken Tadeusz they flee to Paris to join Tamara’s extended family who are there and go to live in a small 5th floor walkup apartment.
She is desperate, having sold her jewels and because Tadeusz shows no inclination to work to support his family. Her sister Adrienne, who is already one of the first women in Europe to graduate with a degree in architecture, reminds her of her early talent in painting and suggests that she take classes so she would be able to support herself.
Tamara studies at the Academie de las Grand Chaumiere and Academie Ranson. Her teachers were Maurice Denis and later Andre Lhote, the only one she will later acknowledge as an influence.
At the age of 24 she exhibits “Portrait of Young Lady in a Blue Dress”, (her neighbor and lover Ira Perrot) in her first Paris Salon, Salon d’automne. Now and for 5 years she will sign T. de Lempitzky, which represents the masculine form, believing she can be taken more seriously as an artist and command a higher price. From the very first she prices her works on a par with well-established male painters like K. Van Dogen (10,000F).
She has developed her very personal signature style and technique, a synthesis of Mannerism and toned-down Cubism. She exhibits at the International Exhibition of Modern, Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris.
The style later is to become known as Art Deco. Her breakthrough comes that same year when she has her first solo show of 30 works, at the Bottega di Poesia in Milan, the gallery thne owned by Count Emanuel Castelbarco.
She garners important commissions: Prince Eristoff, Marquis d’Afflito, Marquis de Sommi, and in 1927 meets the men who will become her patrons, Doctor Boucard and Baron Raoul Kuffer whom she will later marry in 1934. She travels to Florence where she studies the Mannerist painters Pontormo and Botticelli.
She attempts to paint the portrait of Gabriele D’Annunzio in “Il Vittoriale”, his Guardone retreat, but is not interested in his attempts to seduce her and flees. However, she wore the huge topaz ring he gave her every day until her death.
She continues to exhibit in the Salons in Paris, including several extraordinary nudes of her new muse “La Bella Rafaela”. She sells her first work to a public museum, “Kizette en Rose” to Musee des Beaux Arts de Nantes. In 1928 Tadeusz returns to Poland and later divorces her. He remarries a Polish woman, Irene Speiss. His unfinished ‘Portrait d’Homme” is today part of the Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris.
Her first commission for covers of the German magazine Die Dame is published. In Poznan, Poland, she is awarded a bronze medal for another painting of Kizette, “The Communicante”. She travels to New York to paint the fiancée of Mr. Rufus Bush an American magnate and to exhibit in the Polish pavilion of the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.
She gets caught up in the Wall Street crash of 1929 and decides to spend several months exploring New Mexico. Her 1929 cover for Die Dame, “Mon Portrait, Autoportrait” (Tamara in the Green Bugatti) is published in Berlin.
Back in Paris, she participates in a group show “Nudes’ at the Colette Weil gallery where her teacher Andre Lhote has also shown.
Her first solo exhibit in Paris is held at the Colette Weil gallery in 1930. She buys her famous Rue Mechain apartment/studio, designed by renowned architect Robert Mallet-Stevens in collaboration with Arq. Adrienne Gorska (Tamara’s sister) creating a talk of the town backdrop for her to present her new paintings and entertain prospective clients at her sensational “American Cocktail bar.”
She made sure these events were lavish and well attended by the press and glitterati guests. A short film of her painting the portrait of Suzy Solidor, now in the Musee du Cagnes, is filmed by Pathe Gaumont, (now in their archives). In 1933 she exhibits in the Chicago Exhibit with DeKooning and Georgia O’Keefe.
In 1934 she marries Baron Raoul Kuffner who in addition to being one of her biggest collectors, having commissioned 10 paintings at one time, also has an inherited 17 room castle in Hungary with an impressive collection of old masters, as well as properties in Vienna. He is an intellectual in his own right having published extensively on rural land management and is avid chess player. She exhibits again in the FAM the Salon des Femmes Artists Moderns, Paris.
She becomes the most renowned, reported and photographed artist of her day. After a trip to Berlin to to visit Die Damme offices, as well as her information from German newspapers, she follows with great concern the growing popularity of Fascism. She fears for their lives and the property of her new husband who is Jewish.
She convinces Kuffner to leave Paris and they make plans to ship the palace furnishings and flee to United States. Her 1936 painting “Avant l’orage” (Before the Storm) and “Jean d’Arc”1933 express her fear and growing terror about the direction the world is moving. Since 1933 her subject matter changes dramatically as she depicts peasants, and Chrisitan religious figures as well as refugees almost exclusively.
Poland is invaded by the Nazis in September of 1939 and Kuffner and Tamara are “on holiday” in New York. These works are exhibited in the Paul Rainhardt Gallery solo show and again in the Carnegie Institute, but they do not receive the acclaim of previous works.
She and her husband lease an estate in Beverly Hills (owned by Hungarian director King Vidor). She devises a publicity event to locate a model to pose for her new painting in America, “Susan Bathing”. She participates in many European war relief efforts donating paintings and fund raising with the Paderewski Foundation.
When the U.S. enters the war, she and some friends organize the Beverly Hills Womans Emergency Corps; and she becomes Staff Sargeant. She has solo exhibits in the Courvoisier Gallery, San Francisco, and the Julien Levy Gallery in N.Y. as well as Los Angeles and in Milwaukee, but the shows do not meet with critical or commercial success.
She and the Baron relocate again, this time to a duplex they have acquired at 355 E. 57th St. New York. Tamara explores new techniques more in tune with the current artistic movements: abstracts, surrealism, and hyper realism, but to no avail. After a dismal solo show at the Ron Volmar Gallery in Paris she feels scorned and vows to never exhibit again, but always continues painting.
Kuffner dies on board a transatlantic ship and Tamara is devastated. She makes three round the world trips, visiting Pompeii along the way where she will find the inspiration for her new passion, painting with palette knife (her Terra Cotta Period).
Creating spontaneous textural fresco like works resembling the crumbling walls of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which remind her of the fate of those residents suddenly buried by the volcano’s ashes, in the middle of their daily lives, just as she had felt twice before from inevitable historic events.
She moves to Houston, Texas to be near her daughter and granddaughters. She hopes to be recognized again as a valuable painter, but that does not happen.
She moves to Houston, Texas to be near her daughter and granddaughters. Hoping to be recognized again as a valuable painter, but that does not happen.
In Paris Art Deco is being re- discovered and appreciated by a new generation 50 years after its first appearance. Two young gallery owners, Alain Blondel and Yves Plantain search the Paris telephone book and appear at Tamara’s studio one day where she sometimes goes to paint, although she is living in Houston, Texas at this time. She wants to show them the painting she is working on, but they insist they want to see her older works, which she considers, “dusty relics” and gives them the keys to go up to the attic to see for themselves.
They encounter what they consider to be treasures, Adam and Eve, Portrait of Duchess de la Salle and several portraits of Bella Rafaela. They convincer her to let them give her a solo show in Paris with only these works.
She reluctantly agrees and cannot believe the appreciation and adulation she receives from this new public and some old timers who remember her glory days.
She moves to Cuernavaca, Mexico where she encounters her old friend from Paris, the sculptor Victor Manuel Contreras. She purchases her villa Tres Bambus and re decorates it all in lavender and white, a far cry from its former fuscia and ebony Japanese style.
She enjoys her friendships and the visits of her great granddaughters, Marisa and Cristina from Argentina. She continues to paint, often replicas of her former works.
Franco Maria Ricci publishes the deluxe limited-edition tome, “ Tamara de Lempicka, with the Journal of D’Annunzio’s housekeeper”. The publisher had promised Tamara to accompany her art work with a text of the well-known Louvre curator Germain Bazin.
To her surprise, the text was substituted by facsimiles of Tamara’s and D’Annunzio’s correspondence, collected by D’Annuzio’s housekeeper. Tamara is furious and feels betrayed, but the book helps to put her in the public eye again and goes on, after her death, to be a hit long running play.
Kizette moves to Cuernavaca after her husband Foxy dies of cancer at 58. A famous Japanese writer Eiko Ishioka is sent by publisher Mr. Tsuji Masuda to interview Tamara for a forthcoming folio monograph and exhibit that he is planning.
She dies in her sleep and her dying wish is for her ashes to be spread by her daughter Kizette and her friend Victor Manuel Contreras by helicopter on the volcano Popocatepetl which she had often admired from the terrace of Tres Bambus.
We knew Tamara personally and very intimately. We are committed to carrying on her legacy with all the respect, class, and intelligence that she would have wanted.
Furthermore, we have a dream to improve the lives of many women refugees, entrepreneurs, and artists around the world that are going through some of the same hardships that she had to face. If you have a favorite non-profit that you would like to suggest, we would love to hear from you.
7 Rue Mechain, Paris 14 (1929-1976)
322 East 57th Street, New York (1942-1961)