Tamara de Lempicka: a female Dandy


We can’t start talking about Tamara with a standard beginning like: “Tamara de Lempicka was born in a town called… in the year in which…” because we don’t know for sure the city and the date of her birth. 1898 or 1902? Moscow or Warsaw? She claimed she was a Polish woman born in 1902, but some documents talk about Moscow in 1898.

Anyway, this is not a problem: we don’t like too much the academic descriptions.


Tamara had a troubled and marvelous life at the same time, as often happens to artists. Her existence seems to be a seesaw moving from awful events to fabolous moments.


She lost her father when she was just a child and a few years later also her grandmother with whom she grew up. In the meantime she travelled in Italy and France, studing between Switzerland and Poland. In St. Petersburg she married the lawyer Tadeusz Lempicka, from which she took the last name: her real name was Tamara Rosalia Gurwik-Gorska. They moved to Paris and they had a daughter, lovingly called Kizette, but another hard time was coming in: her brother died in war, her hausband fell into depression and they got divorced. Tamara restarts to travel and marries the Baron Raoul Kuffner de Dioszegh; she is a well-known artist yet, and also a wordly woman.


But biographical details do not help to love her artworks. To better understand who Tamara de Lempicka was, we have to start from her art. Mainly she chose three subjets for her paintings: Nudes, Sapphic love and Fashion that also reflect the facets of her personality – the artist, the lover, the glamorous woman.

Despite two marriages, Tamara had lots of lovers – especially women (but take a look at her weird relationship with Gabriele d’Annunzio). In 1921 she finds out she’s bisexual and she starts her first love story with a woman: Ira Perrot, a wealthy Parisian. Since then, Tamara enters in the fabulous and brightly Roaring Twenties of the French capital. Like Madame Perrot, also others Tamara’s lovers pose as models for her paintings: the 17-year old Italian American Rafaela Fano, the duchess Marika de La Salle, the singer and actress Suzi Solidor.



During this years in Paris, her reputation of artist and wordly woman grew up: she exposes at Salon d’Automne, Salon des Indépendents, Salon des Tuileries and she attends the intellectual group of the American writers Natalie Barney with Joyce, Cocteau, Poiret, Colette, Gide. She goes to nightclubs and lesbian clubs, using constantly cocaine. In 1924 she also plans to burn the Louvre with Marinetti…but luckily it didn’t happen.


Tamara could be considered a female Dandy, always fashion-conscious with glamorous clothes and hairstyles. And also her models and artworks have to represent this world of which The young girl in a green dress is a perfect exemple.



Long golden curls coming out from a wide brimmed hat and white gloves: these are all accessories of the Parisian style. In fact, the painting, after the exhibition at the Salon des Indipéndants in 1932, was immediately appreciated by the general public and early published on the cover of fashion reviews in Italy, France, Poland and Czechoslovakia. There are few colors, but strong and bright, that make the image perfect for the reviews. Tamara worked also with and for fashion reviews, as you can see here.


You can say this is a portrait, but at the same time it looks like a decoration! The green dress seems to be painted not to cover the model’s body, but on the contrary, to bring out her sensuality: the chest, the hips and the belly are described and pronunced. Tamara studied painting with nothing less then Maurice Denis and André Lhote, creating the basis of her art. But they were respectively a symbolist and a cubist painter… Tamara went further. She was living the Roaring Twenties – she has to represent that world. The Art Déco  was born during this period in which Tamara was in Paris and spread out quickly in decorative arts, visual arts, architecture and fashion. The colors of the Fauvisme, the geometry of the Abstract art, the volume of the Cubism… you can find everything in Tamara’s artworks!


We don’t know who the model was or who she had to represent… but one thing is clear anyway: she is an indipendent and emancipated woman. Her body is watching us, but her glance is directed somewhere else – like she doesn’t care about us. She could reflect Tamara’s and her strong personality.


After the death of her second hausband, Tamara moves to Texas and then to Mexico, where she will die in 1980. But the life of woman like her, can’t come to an end in an ordinary way: in her testament she asked to be cremated and to spread her ashes over the Popocatepetl volcano!



Valentina Pizzi