Kizette de Lempicka was born Marie-Christine de Lempicka on September 16, 1916. Kizette and her temperamental mother's relationship was at times stormy, but they seemed oddly close. Tamara often had her daughter model though did not always admit to others she had a child. Many of her friends were unaware of Kizette's existence. Tamara titled paintings of Kizette with anonymous titles such as Girl on a Balcony or First Communion.
Girl on a Balcony was important in Tamara de Lempicka's artistic career as it won her first major award, First Prize at the Exposition Internationale in 1927.
Baroness Kizette de Lempicka-Foxhall wrote Passion by Design: The Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka, her memoirs of her mother in 1986.
Tamara deLempicka is perhaps the most famous painter of the art deco period. She was born in Poland and moved to Russia where she lived until the Bolsheviks arrested her husband during the Russian revolution. She secured his release and they fled to Paris. there she learned to paint, enrolling at the Academie de la Grand Chaumiere and studying privately. She was quite a prolific artist (in part facilitated by her spare simple style) and was much sought after as a portrait artist. If you are interested in learning more about Tamara deLempicka I highly recommend Passion by Design by her daughter, Kizette deLempicka-Foxhall.
In 1940 having recently moved from Hollywood to France, Tamara had glamorous photos taken and sent them to newspapers with the caption, "Tamara de Limpicka, Polish Baroness Kuffner, who has arrived in America where her paintings are being shown in Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco. She has been invited by the Department of Fine Arts, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh to exhibit her work."
Then she ran newspaper announcements in Los Angeles papers claiming she was in search of a model. Tamara had recently completed the nude Suzanne au Bain in Europe and she wished to find a look-alike for her next painting locally. Over a hundred coeds posed nude for Tamara until she found the right twin. Newspapers from all over picked up the story and when the winner Cecelia Myers was found, it was printed in Life magazine.
Cecelia later said that the whole thing was a publicity stunt. The nude girls were purely fiction Later when Tamara asked Cecelia to pose nude, Cecelia declined. The resulting painting from the event was A l'Opera or Woman at the Opera.
In 1925, Tamara de Lempicka left Paris and went to Italy in order to study the great masters. Accompanied by her mother and daughter, Kizette, Tamara learned of a new gallery called Bottega di Poesia being opened by wealthy art patron Count Emanuele Castelbarco.
On her return home to France, Tamara informed her mother and Kizette that she would be getting off the train to stop in Milan for a few days and that they should continue on.
When she arrived in Milan, armed with a letter of introduction and her portfolio, Tamara boldly went to the gallery and knocked. Giving the letter to the doorman she asked to see Count Castelbarco. After a wait the gallery owner agreed to meet with her but later admitted that it was only because the doorman had told him his visitor was "young, blonde and pretty"
When he arrived, Tamara handed him photographs of her work and he soon agreed to have her show thirty paintings at Bottega di Poesia - her first solo exhibition.
In November, Tamara returned to Bottega di Poesia with fifty-one paintings including The Model. The exhibit proved to be a milestone in Tamara's career - the show was enormously successful and she was heralded as a rising talent of the art world.
Art Deco painter Tamara de Lempicka's erotic paintings were favourably compared with major figures of the School of Paris, including Léger, Laurenin, Kisling, and Picasso.
She had it all: respect, money, and sexual gratification. She embodied the icon of the age, the new woman.
Her many affairs with the women and men she painted and her years in Hollywood and New York as the "Baroness with a brush," were emblematic of the 1920s embrace of excess and indulgence. Tamara's life of great wealth, indiscriminate sexuality, and endless intrigue makes for a fascinating narrative. -- Excerpt: Tamara de Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence
Tamara de Lempicka was well know for telling various versions of the same story or completely changing facts to suit her own personal whim, constantly confusing interviewers and biographers. One such story she told repeatedly was of how the editor of leading fashion magazine Die Dame saw Tamara one day in Monte Carlo as the artist drove about in a little yellow Renault.
Tamara was dressed in bright yellow with a black hat, matching the color of the vehicle. The magazine editor was so taken by the driver's style that she left a calling card on the windshield of the car, asking the yellow clad woman to get in touch. Later it was discovered that she was the artist Tamara de Lempicka, and Die Dame commissioned a self portrait in the car for the magazine's cover.
The result was one of her best known works, Autoportrait, also known as self portrait or Woman in the Green Bugatti. Tamara never owned a green Bugatti.
Autoportrait became an icon of an era. It is easily one of Tamara de Lempicka most recognized works through it's reproduction in numerous magazines and books over the decades. The Art Deco version of the liberated woman in her brightly colored car has come to represent the newly discovered freedom of women of the day.
Tamara had taken to finding her inspirations by walking around the famous park in Paris, the Bois de Boulogne or sitting at outdoor cafes where she would sketch people around her.
"Suddenly," Tamara would say, "I became aware of a woman walking some distance in front of me. As she walks, everyone coming in the opposite direction stops and looks at her. They turn their heads as they passes by. I am curious. What is so extraordinary that they are doing this? I walk very quickly until I pass her, then I turn around and come back down the path in the opposite direction. Then I see why everyone stops. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen - huge balck eyes, beautiful sensuous mouth, beautiful body. I stop her and say to her, "Madmoiselle I'm a painter and I would like you to come pose for me. Would you do this? She says, "Yes, why not?" And I say , "Yes, come. My car is here."
Tamara learned that the beauty's name was Rafaela. The next day Rafaela showed up at Tamara's studio to posed for what became one of the artist's most highly praised works, Beautiful Rafaela.
Of the sitting period Tamara said: "There was a boy who lived in the same building and whose apartment windows were opposite the windows of my studio. He watched me paint her every day, and she knew it. He fell in love with her through the window. Finally she married him, and I Iost my model!"
The London Sunday Times Magazine called it "one of the most remarkable nudes of the century." The reason surely lies in Tamara's ability to capture her lust for her subject. The desire is palpable. She wants this woman.
Rafaela sat for Tamara de Lempicka for at least three more nudes over the next year. Rafaela admitted, "When I am alone at night, I get crazy. I go out into the street and look for men. I cannot live without a man." And she did not do it for money. She did it because she needed a man. She had to be with a man, a different man, all the time.
Eventually the sessions ceased when Rafaela married a man who lived in the same building as the studio. His windows faced Tamara's and he fell in love with the model he saw through the glass and proposed to her.
Quotes excerpted from Passion By Design ~ The Art And Times Of Tamara de Lempicka, By Baroness Kizette de Lempicka - Foxhall
" I vowed that each time I sold a painting, I would buy myself a new bracelet. Soon I had bracelets up to my elbow!" - Tamara de Lempicka
A Polish-Russian aristocrat, Lempicka barely escaped the Bolshevik Revolution. In 1918, she landed in a drab little hotel room in Paris with her unemployed husband and a small child. Within a few years, marshaling her innate talent, her wit and Greta Garbo looks, she became the most talked about Art Deco painter of her time. To this day, her erotic portraits of stylish sybarites are enduring testaments to the novelty-loving materialism and decadence of the glittering 1920's.