Tamara de Lempicka, Pinacotheque, Paris
Tamara de Lempicka, Pinacotheque, Paris

The Queen of Art Deco

The two exhibitions displayed simultaneously in both spaces of the Pinacothèque de Paris allow visitors to discover the first retrospective of French Art Nouveau and its evolution towards Art Déco, through one of its icons, Tamara de Lempicka.

While Art Nouveau was drying up and saw its shapes evolving towards an abandonment of the arabesque, to return towards a form of geometric aspect and transforming itself little by little into what is known as Art Deco, the representation of the female figure was also to undergo a major evolution.

From sensuality and eroticism, we were to head towards a much more advanced, transgressive sexuality. The image of the “tomboy” as a defining characteristic of Art Deco was to provide Tamara de Lempicka with an overweening position in that movement, going so far as to make of her its icon.

Tamara’s assumed sexuality – although she married twice, she openly proclaimed her taste for women and freely expressed her homosexuality – was to correspond to the women’s taste for emancipation at that time. Like Louise Brooks or Josephine Baker, Tamara de Lempicka was to embody that image of a woman whose status was the equivalent of a man’s.

The Pinacothèque de Paris has today chosen to exhibit Tamara’s works and to illustrate the way in which this artist, through her work but also through her personality: unclassifiable and ambiguous, was to perfectly embody the period she illustrated. Her very social and theatrical lifestyle was made up of a succession of displays that awarded the major role to modernity and to luxury. That relationship with modernity and transgression probably makes of her the most ambiguous character of the start of the 20th century. Playing without compunction on women’s erotic attitudes or at the very least, on their sensuality, she nonetheless situated them within a neo-cubist universe, profoundly Art Deco.

Thanks to Gioia Mori, curator of the exhibition and renowned specialist of Tamara de Lempicka, for her work and her expertise. Thanks also to all the private and institutional collectors throughout the world, who thanks to their generosity, enabled us to bring this event before the public.

Exhibition Review by Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor, Visitmuseums.com

 Enter the strong, emancipated, sexy and elegant world of Art Deco and Tamara de Lempicka! The Pinacotheque museum in Paris presents us with a comprehensive and intense outlook into the style, art and complete way of life that was to herald one of the most exciting eras of the century and explains how Tamara de Lempicka exemplified it. We see how gradually Art Nouveau is to be replaced with the Art Deco movement and how the representation of the female body was to have a massive transformation. Lempicka’s ideal of the female/male body came into play; known as the garconne, and we see her status develop from her early paintings into the veritable Queen of Art Deco that she became.

          In 1934 Lempicka claimed not to belong to any specific culture or country; she moved to Paris where many like her had fled in search of a better life and lived the life of a Russian immigrant whilst adopting the surname of her Polish husband. Small watercolours that she had produced during her teens can be seen for the first time, for example her vivid ‘Still life with mandarines’. We see even then there was already a marriage of extreme modernism with classical purity in her work. There was a huge reaction after the war to the hardships and struggles people had endured and Tamara de Lempicka cleverly demonstrated this whilst also celebrating Modern Man and the joie de vivre that could be found in the Parisian theatres and nightlife. The modern woman was emancipated, independent and often transsexual. Lempicka mainly painted portraits of woman and they were strong, vital woman seen in the solemn ‘Widower’ and ‘The Bohemian’. We learn that she often used a model called Iva Perrot as her femme fatale. Iva is portrayed in ‘Sa Tristesse’ and it is an almost startling portrait of a lady with red hair and an intense look in her eyes, wearing a beautiful, sumptuous scarf  against the background of a black jagged tree.

          Lempicka soon became famous for her voluptuous nudes and semi dressed women. In ‘Nu aux voiliers’ we see how the painting is almost photographic; the woman’s face is both dreamlike and intense, her boobs are painted in a cubist style and she is altogether sensual and strong. In her large painting ‘La Tunique Rose’ again we have a spectacularly sensual woman who is clearly comfortable in her own skin, lying on her sofa wearing what looks like a sexy red satin nightdress. The amazing light in the portrait highlights what was Lempicka’s signature trait in her art. In her painting ‘The blue scarf’ we see Lempicka portraying the archetypal modern woman: here we have a head and torso of a young woman with a defined greek nose, red painted nails and blonde hair who is sporty, passionate about sailing and conscious of the fashion world; wearing a modern beret. In many ways her face looks more like a photo than a painting.  Tamara Lempicka’s later move to the United states of America and her attempts to publicise her work and to stage a platform of her ideals in the 1940’s are also explored in the exhibition.

          We see clearly how life and art are intermingled in Tamara de Lempicka’s work so that they can’t be separated from each other. She lived in a cosmopolitan city and era and managed to combine the sensuality and splendour of life yet with a feel for spirituality and poverty. One cannot leave the museum without visions of her spectacular female portraits and nudes still in your mind. It should most definitely be at the top of your ‘want to see’ exhibitions.

It may also be of interest to know that the Pinacotheque is wheelchair friendly with lifts at every stage of its museum and you can ask for English translations to help you with each aspect of the show.

Tamara de Lempicka Exhibition Review, by Larissa Woolf, Arts Editor, Visitmuseums.com

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Tamara de Lempicka's most famous works are available in limited edition serigraph
( Certified and Authorized by Baroness Kizette de Lempicka.) Available exclusively through DK Art Publishing Inc. www.dkartpublishin.com / [email protected]

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Pinacotheque de Paris
Pinacotheque de Paris
28, place de la Madeleine


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