Tamara de Lempicka

(About art, not language.)

On NPR’s Morning Edition Saturday today, an interview with Ellis Avery, on her novel The Last Nude, based on the life of art deco painter Tamara de Lempicka, imagining a hidden affair between her and her model Rafaela in 1920s Paris. (The novel is written from Rafaela’s point of view.)

De Lempicka’s La Belle Rafaela, painted in 1927, inspired Avery’s novel. In the novel, the painter (known primarily as a portraitist) meets Rafaela while on a walk in a Paris park, and Rafaela becomes her model and her lover.

La Belle Rafaela:

And the painting La Reve, which Avery chose for the cover of her book:

From the Wikipedia entry:

Tamara de Lempicka (Łempicka) (16 May 1898 – 18 March 1980), born Maria Górska in Moscow, in the Russian Empire, was a Polish Art Deco painter and “the first woman artist to be a glamour star.”

… During the Roaring 20s Paris, Tamara de Lempicka was part of the bohemian life: she knew Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide. Famous for her libido, she was bisexual, and her affairs with both men and women were carried out in ways that were scandalous at the time. She often used formal and narrative elements in her portraits and nude studies to produce overpowering effects of desire and seduction. In the 1920s she became closely associated with lesbian and bisexual women in writing and artistic circles, such as Violet Trefusis, Vita Sackville-West, and Colette. She also became involved with Suzy Solidor, a night club singer at Boîte de Nuit, whom she later painted. Her husband [Tadeusz Łempicki] eventually tired of their arrangement and abandoned her in 1927. They were divorced in 1931 in Paris.

She married her patron and lover Baron Raoul Kuffner von Diószeg in 1934; they lived in Beverly Hills and then New York City. After he died (in 1961) she moved to Mexico and died there in 1980, in the care of her daughter Kizette (from her first marriage).

Her work was in great favor, then out of it, and then, late in her life, back in fashion again; Madonna is a great fan and collector of her works.

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