Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka – The Art Deco Works by the Polish Painter

Tamara de Lempicka was an Art Deco artist who is well-known for her portraits of affluent women that exude class and elegance. The sharp angles and bright colors of Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings are reminiscent of the glitz and glitter of the interwar era. De Lempicka was born in Poland in 1898, and her personal and professional lives were sometimes inextricably entwined. In this biography, we take a closer look at the artist’s life and influences, as well as providing a brief discussion of her most notable works of art.



Artist in Context: Who Was Tamara de Lempicka?

Date of Birth 16 May 1898
Date of Death18 March 1980
Country of Birth Warsaw, Poland (then Russia)
Art MovementsArt Deco, Queer Art, and Proto-Feminist Art
Mediums UsedPainting

De Lempicka is best remembered for her signature style, which fused Art Deco’s geometric minimalism with the Art Nouveau movement’s sensuality and eroticism. The modernity and sophistication of the interwar era can be seen in her paintings through the use of strong, angular lines, saturated colors, and glamorous subjects. Below we consider more closely the events that influenced Tamara de Lempicka’s art.



Tamara de Lempicka was born on May 16, 1898, in Warsaw, Poland, as Maria Górska. Boris Górska, her father, was a wealthy Jewish lawyer of Russian and Polish ancestry, and Malvina Decler, her mother, was a Polish socialite. De Lempicka was raised in a wealthy family and was exposed to art and culture at a young age. Her mother encouraged her artistic talent, and at the age of ten, she began drawing lessons.

De Lempicka’s parents divorced in 1911. After the divorce, she relocated to Saint Petersburg, Russia, to live with her aunt. Her aunt was extremely wealthy and introduced the young Tamara de Lemipcka (then still Maria Górska) to the luxurious life of the elite class.

She continued her art studies at the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts, where she was mentored by some of the most prominent artists of the time. She was influenced greatly by the works of Italian Renaissance masters such as Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci.

Tamara de Lempicka ArtBust of Tamara Lempicka in Celebrity Alley in Kielce, Poland; Paweł Cieśla Staszek_Szybki_Jest, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At age 15, her aunt took her to see an opera where she met the charming Tadeusz Lempicki, whom the young Maria Górska was confident that she would marry. She convinced her uncle to introduce them and three years later, they were married. The Russian Revolution began the following year, in 1917, and her husband was taken into custody by the Bolsheviks. Maria spent weeks using her social ties, charisma, and good looks to try to find her husband in prison. When she did, she set up Tadeusz’s release by supposedly seducing a person of power. Soon after, the couple fled the country, finally settling in Paris in 1918, where her family had also sought refuge.


Education and Early Career

De Lempicka continued her education at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris where she was mentored by the Cubist painter André Lhote and the Nabis painter, Maurice Denice. It was here where she reinvented herself as Tamara de Lempicka. She quickly became involved in the city’s vibrant artistic community, which included notable figures such as Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide.

It was in these years that De Lempicka developed her signature style by combining the elegant and simplified forms of Art Deco with the romance and sensuality of the Art Nouveau movement. The style was inspired by graphic arts and what André Lhote called “soft Cubism”. She was also influenced by the work of the Italian Futurists, who celebrated modernity, speed, and technological advancement.

Early on in her career, De Lempicka was successful and well-known. Her first noteworthy show was at the Salon d’Automne in 1922. There, she showed a series of nude paintings that were praised for its daring and unique style. She quickly gained recognition as a gifted and provocative artist, and her works were purchased by a number of prominent collectors. De Lempicka participated in the Paris International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in 1925, which served as the impetus for the development of the Art Deco style. American fashion journalists noticed her paintings, which featured wealthy and stylish women. De Lempicka became one of the most well-known artists of her generation as a result of this exhibition, which propelled her to international fame.


Mature Career

With her bold, geometric style and emphasis on portraiture and the human figure, De Lempicka quickly became recognized as a key figure in the Parisian Art Deco movement. Tamara de Lempicka was ideally suited for Paris’s “roaring twenties,” the prosperous golden era of the post-World War I 1920s. She also developed a reputation for living a glamorous lifestyle, attending social functions catered to the upper class, and mingling with many of the leading intellectuals and artists of the day.

De Lempicka’s personal life was turbulent and chaotic despite her success. After divorcing her first husband in 1927, she later wed Raoul Kuffner, a Hungarian baron, and had a daughter named Kizette with him. The marriage of the two was often tumultuous due to Kuffner’s infidelity and De Lempicka’s free spirited lifestyle.

She openly had romantic and sexual relationships with both men and women, many of whom were clients and models. She also socialized with lesbian and bisexual women writers and artists and attended Natalie Barney’s “women only” afternoons were she became acquainted with people like Vita Sackville-West.

Tamara de Lempicka PaintingsPhotograph of Tamara de Lempicka in her atelier, located in the National Museum in Kraków; Fry72, Karel Frydrýšek, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

De Lempicka, who had lived through the tumultuous lead-up to the Russian Revolution and then the disastrous First World War, saw early warning signs of a second impending world war. When the threat of war became too great in 1939, she and her husband left Paris for Hollywood, California. Here, in the home of legendary filmmaker King Vidor, Tamara rose to prominence as a favorite artist of A-list celebrities and Hollywood stars. In 1941, after a long ordeal, De Lempicka was able to bring her daughter Kizette out of Nazi-occupied Paris. De Lempicka and her husband relocated to New York City in 1943. They kept up their regular social schedule, though De Lempicka’s artistic output paled in comparison to her years in Paris. By the mid-1940s, her signature style had become less cutting-edge, and with it, demand for her paintings.


Late Career

When Tamara’s husband, the Baron, passed away in 1961, she sold most of their possessions and set sail on a voyage around the globe. In order to be with her daughter more frequently, she relocated to Houston, Texas. To keep up with the most recent developments in the art world, she started making abstract paintings. De Lempicka, who was already in her 60s at the time, decided to retire from public life as a painter and never again exhibit her work after its poor reception at an exhibition in 1962.

Tamara’s decision to abandon the arts coincided with a surprising revival of the Art Deco movement. De Lempicka’s work was rediscovered in 1966 when the Musée des Arts Decoratifs in Paris hosted an exhibition devoted solely to the Art Deco movement. Both De Lempicka and her art were revitalized by a 1972 retrospective at the Galerie du Luxembourg.

The intelligent and independent De Lempicka reportedly became very temperamental in her old age, to the point where she was difficult to work with for anyone (including her own daughter).  In 1978, Lempicka bought a one-of-a-kind architect-designed home in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and relocated there. When she passed away in 1980, her ashes were dispersed from the peak of the Mexican volcano Popocatepetl.



Important Tamara de Lempicka Artworks

Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings have a timeless elegance and beauty. Her legacy as a trailblazing female artist continues to inspire artists to this day. Her unique style, which fused Cubism and Futurism, propelled her to the forefront of the Art Deco movement. Below, we explore a selection of seminal Tamara de Lempicka’s artworks.


Group of Four Nudes (1925)

Artwork Title Group of Four Nudes
Medium Oil on canvas
Size (cm)130 x 80
CollectionPrivate collection

Tamara De Lempicka’s painting, Group of Four Nudes (1925) features four sensual and confident women. In the painting, the women are twisted and tangled together. Their naked bodies are a jumble of smooth curves and hard angles. The strong, sensual figures have seductive expressions and their compositions recall the nude bathers of Ingres, Delacroix, Matisse, and Picasso. 

The picture’s shallow background, which is typical of post-Cubist art, makes the women feel even more crowded in the composition, giving the work a more erotic tone. Joan Cox, an art historian, argued that De Lempicka cropped in the picture frame so that viewers, especially female viewers, can feel like they are part of the fun. Cox continues to say that De Lempicka makes the female viewer feel like an included lover instead of focussing on the male viewer’s standpoint of a distant voyeur in this all-female public space. In fact, works like Ingres’ and Picasso’s “naked groupings” are made with the idea that the viewer is a man, since at least the artists were men. De Lempicka changes that dynamic and, in a way, leaves men out of the picture entirely.


Kizette in Pink (1926)

Artwork Title Kizette in Pink
Medium Oil on canvas
Size (cm)116 x 73
CollectionMusée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Nantes, France

This painting is one of many of De Lempicka’s daughter, Kizette. The girl is dressed in a light pink color and one of her shoes is missing, giving her a childlike appearance. Some people argue that Kizette’s awkward pose may be a reference to the Theotokos of Tikhvin (c. 1300), a well-known Russian Orthodox Christian icon of the Madonna and Child. In a famous painting, the baby Jesus is holding something, likely a scroll, and has one leg crossed over the other, just like Kizette does in her portrait.

When De Lempicka had her daughter, she was very young. Because of her lingering doubts about motherhood, Tamara rarely saw her daughter Kizette, who spent most of her time with relatives and at boarding school. De Lempicka’s biography claims the artist would sometimes tell her daughter she was her sister to conceal her true age from the girl when they saw each other.

De Lempicka frequently painted portraits of Kizette whenever the two reconnected. One of her most popular and potentially illuminating psychological works is Images of Kizette.

De Lempicka may have positioned herself as the Madonna, the ideal mother, in part to alleviate guilt for essentially abandoning her child, and perhaps also to convey the involuntary nature of her motherhood, by drawing an indirect parallel between Kizette and the Christ Child from the famous icon. Kizette is portrayed in a naturalistic fashion, but the style is unmistakably that of “soft Cubism” popularized by De Lempicka and Lhote. The girl’s expression also has none of the typical seductive markers of De Lempicka’s usual female subjects. This work is unique as it incorporates the jagged, fragmented angles of Cubism, the iconic geometrical shapes of Art Deco, and the additional edge of softness. 


My Portrait (Self-portrait in the Green Bugatti) (1929)

Artwork Title My Portrait (Self-Portrait in the Green Bugatti)
Medium Oil on panel
Size (cm)35 x 27
CollectionPrivate collection

De Lempicka is depicted in what is likely her most famous painting, sitting in the driver’s seat of a green Bugatti sports car. She is wearing stylish brown driving gloves, a tightly fitting hat, and a scarf that wafts in dramatic, jagged folds.  The style of the work is so directly reminiscent of Art Deco, and the dramatic lighting give the impression of speed. 

The painting was created as a commission for the front cover of Die Dame, a German magazine dedicated to the promotion of the modern woman, and the painting does just that.  The woman in this painting is one with unyielding self-determination and sexuality. The artist’s expression in the painting is controlled and detached. Her gaze is turned directly to the viewer. With this, De Lempicka appropriates the traditional male gaze and subverts the traditional way of depicting women as the subject of the male gaze. 


Girl with Gloves (Young Girl in Green) (1929)

Artwork Title Girl with Gloves (Young Girl in Green)
Medium Oil on plywood
Size (cm)61.5 x 45.5
CollectionMusée National d’Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France

De Lempicka had a keen eye for style and she loved accessorizing. In her portraits, her sitters and models are often accessorized in the same style as she would wear. Her favorite accessories included hats, jewelry, high-end clothing, and gloves. Accessories were a must for the arms, wrists, hands, and neck. Gloves were an important accessory to the rich and De Lempicka had used them before in her paintings. Most notably we see the use of gloves in The Polo Player (1923), Woman with a Green Glove (1928), and Self Portrait in the Green Bugatti (1929).

Girl with Gloves (1929) is one of De Lempicka’s most famous portraits. Despite the gloves playing no significant role in the composition of the painting, De Lempicka still draws attention to it through the painting title.

The woman in this painting looks innocent, yet mysterious, with her full-brimmed hat pulled to one side, her alluring gaze, and the bright green dress, detailed in meticulously soft folds. The style of the work is in her signature soft cubic style, with sleek streamlined shapes, metallic surfaces, bold colors, and striking angular lines. Despite the style’s angularity, De Lempicka was able to capture the fluidity of the dress’s fabric and the subtle eroticism of her subject’s curves.


The Musician (1929)

Artwork Title The Musician
Medium Oil on canvas
Size (cm)115.8 x 73
CollectionPrivate collection

The Musician (1929) is a genre painting by De Lempicka. The painting is based on the classical tradition of using metaphoric depictions of the arts. In this painting, music is depicted as a beautiful and elegant woman consumed in music. De Lempicka was heavily influenced by the Renaissance masterpieces in the Louvre Museum and this work could be an inspired by a number of Renaissance, or even Modernist, paintings.

The Cubists were especially known for using themes of music or musical instruments in their works from the early 1900s. Whilst Cubism is a clear influence in the style of this work, De Lempicka diverges from typical Cubist style by incorporating a bright color palette and depicting the female figure as the bold and sensual central focal point of the work.


Adam and Eve (1932)

Artwork Title Adam and Eve
Medium Oil on panel
Size (cm)116 x 73
CollectionPrivate collection

De Lempicka’s Adam and Eve (1932) painting was inspired when one of Lempicka’s female sitters took a break, snacking on an apple. De Lempicka asked the model to hold her stance with the apple so that she could capture it on paper. Afterwards, she invited a policeman she found on the streets to pose for Adam. In this painting, De Lempicka creates a stark contrast between the natural and the industrial, featuring the apple, the naked human form, and a cityscape.

Barbra Streisand famously purchased the painting for $135,000 in the 1980s. Streisand’s collection was auctioned off by Christie’s on March 3, 1996, with Adam and Eve fetching a then-record price of $1,982,500.

This piece was recently acquired by a private collector. Barbra Streisand and the Adam and Eve painting were on the cover of the December 1993 issue of Architectural Digest, which highlighted Streisand’s Art Deco-inspired Malibu mansion. The painting also made an appearance in First Wives Club, a film released in 1996.


Mexican Girl (1947)

Artwork Title Mexican Girl
Medium Oil on canvas
Size (cm)51 x 40,8
CollectionMusée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes, Nantes, France

By the end of the 1930s, De Lempicka had shifted to more conservative topics and styles, which often featured archetypal individuals rather than real people. The majority of her latter work consists of imagery that are significantly less intriguing than her early, openly sensuous and opulent paintings.  The affluent and fashionable sitters posed against contemporary surroundings have vanished. Instead, paintings like Mexican Girl (1947) depict various elements of society, such as this woman, who is clearly of lower class, judging by the holes in her clothing and the ragged straw hat.

The sitter’s huge straw hat adds drama, yet her look is cynical, implying dissatisfaction. The artwork has De Lempicka’s trademark handling of flesh and dramatic lighting, but it is far more conservative than her previous work and lacks the sensuality that defined her Art Deco style. This change in subject and style is likely brought on by De Lempicka’s change in environment after she relocated to Mexico. Her later works show an interest in humanity that is broader than the elite social class and suggests a more sober worldview.



Reading Recommendations

Tamara de Lempicka is known as the queen of the Art Deco. Her fabulous and luxurious paintings make for incredible reproductions, while her lavish and unconventional lifestyle make for a fascinating read. Below are three publications we recommend to take you deeper into the world of Tamara de Lempicka.


Tamara De Lempicka (Bloomsbury Lives of Women (2010) by Laura Claridge

This book is a well-written, detailed, and informative biography of Tamara de Lempicka. The book doesn’t leave any stone unturned, from De Lempicka’s art, her influences, sex life, family, troubled relationships, and Paris in the 1920s. If you are looking for an unbiased and detailed dive into the life and work of this interesting female artist, then this book is for you.

Tamara De Lempicka (Bloomsbury Lives of Women)
  • An informative biography of Tamara de Lempicka's life
  • Includes plenty of details about the artist
  • A look at the major themes in her work
View on Amazon


Passion by Design: The Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka (2020) by Kizette de Lempicka-Foxhall

This book is written by Tamara de Lempicka’s own daughter. The book offers an intimate look at De Lempicka’s intricate personality. Given its expansive and intimate knowledge about the artist, this book is arguably the best account of Tamara de Lempicka’s life and work. In this newly reprinted edition, the book offers stunning full color reproductions of her paintings, along with special photographs from family albums.

Passion by Design: The Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka
  • A new hardcover edition of this classic biography
  • Written by Tamara de Lempicka's daughter
  • Intimate look at the artist's life
View on Amazon


Tamara de Lempicka (2020) by Marisa de Lempicka

The artist’s great-granddaughter, Marisa de Lempicka, collaborated with the publisher on the publication of this exquisite book. The book is beautifully put together, with paintings, drawings, and pictures meticulously chosen to introduce the reader to the artist’s great oeuvre and the intriguing world of the Art Deco queen. Written specifically for this book, Marisa de Lempicka’s moving words recount the artist’s life story before moving on to fondly recall a family holiday with Marisa’s well-known great-grandmother. The artist’s contemporary significance is discussed in the final section of the book by art philosopher Maria Anna Potocka.

Tamara De Lempicka
  • Published in cooperation with the great-granddaughter of the artist
  • Exquisite composition of Tamara de Lempicka's iconic artworks
  • Provides a brilliant oeuvre of the artist's life and work
View on Amazon


Tamara de Lempicka left a mark in the art world with her unique vision and impeccable taste. Throughout her life, she was renowned for her fierce individuality, penchant for opulence, and commitment to her artistic goals. Tamara de Lempicka’s art continues to inspire and captivate audiences worldwide. She remains a fascinating and enigmatic figure in the history of Modern art.




Frequently Asked Questions


What Was Tamara de Lempicka’s Style?

Tamara de Lempicka’s art is characterized by the Art Deco style, which merged Cubist and Futurist styles with a focus on glamour, elegance, and modernity. She was known for her use of daring geometric shapes, bright colors, and exaggerated angles, which gave her paintings a sense of power, vitality, and opulence.


What Is Tamara de Lempicka’s Most Famous Painting?

Tamara de Lempicka’s painting, Self-Portrait in a Green Bugatti (1929), is arguably her most well-known work. De Lempicka is depicted in the painting sporting a stylish hat and a fur collar as she sits behind the wheel of a green Bugatti. The combination of her self-assured demeanor and the car’s dramatic angles results in an image that is both enticing and powerful.


What Was Tamara de Lempicka’s Impact on the Art World?

Tamara de Lempicka had a major effect on the art world. Her Art Deco aesthetic was revolutionary at the time, marking a break with convention that paved the way for the rise of modern art. Many other artists were encouraged to take risks by her use of contrasting hues, geometric forms, and dramatic angles. She is now widely considered a major figure in 20th-century art.


Cite this Article

Liam, Davis, “Tamara de Lempicka – The Art Deco Works by the Polish Painter.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. September 26, 2023. URL: https://artfilemagazine.com/tamara-de-lempicka/

Davis, L. (2023, 26 September). Tamara de Lempicka – The Art Deco Works by the Polish Painter. artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source. https://artfilemagazine.com/tamara-de-lempicka/

Davis, Liam. “Tamara de Lempicka – The Art Deco Works by the Polish Painter.” artfilemagazine – Your Online Art Source, September 26, 2023. https://artfilemagazine.com/tamara-de-lempicka/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *