Tamara de Lempicka is definitely known as one of the most famous female painter in contemporary art – one of those who changed history, just to be clear.
But, reading on her, one of the first things I asked myself was: would she ever become this famous without all her excesses?
At the beginning I was doubtful, since I don’t think libertinism stands as a synonym for indipendence nor freedom; but I must admit I reconsidered the whole thing.
This woman can’t be circumscribed to her art – even if we can’t underestimate it – and neither to her lifestyle.
Would you ever do this with D’Annunzio – who, no coincidence, has been (almost) her lover? You can appreciate them or not, moralize it or not, but you can’t deny their importance or their charisma.
With the intention of talking about her wide-ranging, there’s a fundamental point that can’t be missed: Tamara consciously built an image. As an elegant and sophisticated woman, as an extravagant protagonist of the European high life, she was the first woman artist who has been at the same time a glamour star and a fashion icon.
She was fierce, chic, fearless – and all these reasons pushed editors and brands of the time to ask her to be their testimonial. The editor of Die Dame (a German fashion magazine) saw her driving a Renault and demanded a self-portrait for his cover (the Self-portrait in a green Bugatti); Revlon in 1930 asked her to collaborate for a lipstick; some photos of her posing for a French fashion magazine have been recently found.
In fact for the technique she used – the humanity of her subjects combined with the futuristic geometrical forms – her paintings have always been considered the archetype of fashion photography: stiff poses, cold gazes, an artificial elegance.
In all their coldness her portraits express not only a photographic image, but her way of living reality with alterity and charm.
And what about those dresses?! Her bodies are draped in fluid materials (silk, jersey) which covered the curves enhancing them at the same time. Not a surprise she has always been such an inspiration for photographers and designers: those women look as they had stepped straight out from the pages of Vogue. And to Vogue they returned.
Steven Meisel (legendary photographer of the magazine) recreated that magic allure in 2008 with Natalia Vodianova, and the photos are almost pictorial for light and composition. Long satin dresses, red lipstick, a wavy bob and a priceless class of other times.
But fashion is actually plenty of examples.
His majesty Karl Lagerfeld chose her images to style Florence Welsh’s look for the cover of Shake it out, recovering her colors and that magic “suspended” atmosphere; Ralph Lauren took her resolution in 2005 to create intrepid women – ready to drive a Bugatti. And if the Blue woman with a guitar walked the catwalk for Armani in 2013 the Girl in a Green Dress strutted it for Schiaparelli and Lanvin.
The list is definitely incomplete – but you’ve taken the hint. This woman did definitely more than painting: she imposed an image – the one of the contemporary Femme Fatale – and she did it just being herself, without caring of other people’s judge.
All things considered, I don’t know if I feel comfortable saying she was just a creative, licentious coke head. Would you?!