De Lempicka – Portrait of Mrs M (1932)

portrait of mrs m

Tamara de Lempicka was a flamboyant, glamorous Polish artist who fled the Bolsheviks in 1917 after her husband was arrested and made her home in Paris, where she developed her distinctive Art Deco style. The majority of her major works were portraits and she was the most fashionable portrait painter of her generation. Indeed, her style remains popular with many contemporary Hollywood stars and A list celebrities owning some of her works.

This painting is one of her last big portraits; the after effects of the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression meant that such commissions were becoming increasingly scarce. She would charge somewhere in the region of 50,000 francs for a portrait, which could take up to three weeks to complete. Most of her sitters, like Mrs M, were society people and consequently could afford such a luxury as having their portrait painted. This is now in a private collection in France.

Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find out very much about the sitter. The style of the portrait is typically Lempicka – very geometric, clean lines, sharp colours. It is impossible to sense the growing darkness that pervades the early Thirties in Europe, and this feels very glamorous and I sense the influence of the early Hollywood movies. I have to admit that I do like Lempicka’s paintings (although her later works are less stylistic) and this is one of my favourites.


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