Tamara de Lempicka (Łempicka) (May 16, 1898–March 18, 1980), born Maria Górska in Warsaw was a Polish Art Deco painter and “the first woman artist to be a glamour star.” Born into a wealthy and prominent family, she attended boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland. In 1916 she married Tadeusz Łempicki—a well-known ladies’ man, gadabout, and lawyer by title. In Paris, her distinctive and bold artistic style developed quickly and epitomized the cool yet sensual side of the Art Deco movement. She was soon the most fashionable portrait painter of her generation among the haute bourgeoisie and aristocracy, painting duchesses and grand dukes and socialites. In 1925, she painted her iconic work Auto-Portrait (Tamara in the Green Bugatti) for the cover of the German fashion magazine Die Dame. Famous for her libido, she was bisexual, and her affairs with both men and women were carried out in ways that were scandalous at the time. She often used formal and narrative elements in her portraits and nude studies to produce overpowering effects of desire and seduction. In the 1920s she became closely associated with lesbian and bisexual women. In 1928, her long time patron the Baron Raoul Kuffner visited her studio and commissioned her to paint his mistress. De Lempicka finished the portrait, then took the mistress’ place in the Baron’s life. She travelled to the United States for the first time in 1929, to paint a commissioned portrait for Rufus Bush and to arrange a show of her work at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. The show went well but the money she earned was lost when the bank she used collapsed following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. In the early 1930s she was painting King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of Greece. Museums began to collect her works. In 1933 she traveled to Chicago where she worked with Georgia O’Keeffe, Santiago Martínez Delgado and Willem de Kooning. Her social position was cemented when she married Baron Kuffner in 1933. Eventually she adopted a new style, using palette knife instead of brushes. Her new work was not well-received when she exhibited in 1962 at the Iolas Gallery. De Lempicka determined never to show her work again, and retired from active life as a professional artist. She died in her sleep on March 18, 1980.
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