Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Love Letter to an Artist

If I could have my portrait painted by any artist in history, I think Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980) would be very high on my shortlist.

Portrait de Madame Allan Bott (source)

I've been obsessing over the above painting in particular recently.  Beyond finding her painting style fabulous, I love the sitter in this picture - her pose, her dress, her makeup - and I love the background of the dark city.  It's so incredibly beautiful.

A lot of people are probably familiar with her famous self-portrait...

Autoportrait (1925)

... but perhaps know her other work less well.  Let me share some of my other favourites I came across.

La Dormeuse (1932)

Young Lady with Gloves (1930)

The Girls (c.1930)

I love the way she paints curls in those pictures above, don't you?  Like beautiful, silky ribbons.

Saint Moritz (1929)

Blue Scarf (1930)

Calla Lillies (1931)

She looked pretty fabulous herself too...


...had a beautiful studio...


...and had an appropriately jazz age lifestyle.  Born into a wealthy family in Poland, boarding school in Switzerland, to Italy and the French Riveria at a young age, parents divorced when she was 12, went to live with her aunt in St Petersburg.  Her husband arrested by the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution, she secured his release and they ended up in Paris via Copenhagen and London.  In France, she became part of the bohemian set in 1920s Paris, where she had affairs with men and women alike.  She had a daughter who she painted often but neglected due to her obsession with her art and her debauched lifestyle.  Etc, etc, etc.

But most importantly, what an amazing artist.


  1. I can't even pick a favorite, I love all of them!

  2. I love these paintings! Oh, and I agree, she was absolutely gorgeous herself! Thanks for sharing this info....I had seen some of these paintings before, but I had no idea who had done them.

  3. Glad you enjoyed them, Miss Vintage Love! I was the same as you - had seen some of these paintings but had no idea who it was until one day I started doing some investigations, and it all built from there.

  4. Ohh, Tamara is wonderful! I have one of her paintings (a print of course!) up in my house! <3

    Lost in the Haze

  5. Jo - Oh, to have a real one of her paintings! But still, if you can't have that, a print is the next best thing! I was thinking of getting one too, but I really want Madame Allan Bott and I have a feeling that won't be so easy to source as the more famous ones...

  6. Beautiful artwork, she sounds fascinating, there should be a film about her.

  7. There _should_ be a film about her, I agree! I'd absolutely go and see it. There is a biography which I would like to read. It'll probably have more detail... but it won't have pretty dresses and sets!

  8. Very interesting. Some do have a hardness to them - especially with the hooded eyes. I think Madame Allan Bott is a stand-out. Absolutely lovely. The contrast of her white slipdrss and the dark city, her curves with the anglular city (met with just one curve on the right)...

  9. Absolutely fabulous. A treat to read/see. I also love Tamara L.s art. Thxs Miss Marie. Have a delicious 2012! xoxo

  10. A book on Tamara L. just came out here in the US: "The Last Nude", a new novel by Ellis Avery, a creative writing professor at Columbia University in New York. The book tells a passionate portrait of Tamara and her muse, the model Rafaela, who is featured in several of Tamara's works from 1920s Paris. Avery told NPR recently on the story behind La Belle Rafaela:
    "The artist met the model on a walk in a public park in Paris in 1927, [and] took her back to the studio. This girl became her model and her lover, and they produced six paintings together over the months that followed.

    "... What was incredibly moving was ... the very last painting she was working on when she died in 1980 was a copy of this same 1927 beautiful Rafaela. So 53 years later, this girl was on her mind," the author told NPR. There should be a film abt this great artist. I wonder if Tamara met the Surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, a British-Mexican artist who died last spring.

  11. Wow, thanks for sharing, Daniella! I'll have to have a look for that book. And also look up Leonora Carrington.

    Thanks again for the recommendations.

  12. I am revisiting this blog entry in May 2012 to say that I've just seen Dark Shadows (another Tim Burton/Johnny Depp/Danny Elfman collaboration) - and in a scene where the witch walks past her portraits that cover her 200+ years, one of the latest portraits is obviously supposed to have been done by Tamara de Lempicka. I'm thinking now that it is very similar to the one of Madame Allan Bott. I was quite excited when I made the connection.