Tamara de Lempicka’s work ‘more relevant than ever’ says artist’s great-granddaughter on eve of ‘homecoming’ exhibition
Poland’s first ever monographic exhibition of artworks by Tamara de Lempicka, and the first exhibition to focus on the important influence of travel on her art, opens to the public tomorrow (19 March) at the National Museum in Lublin.
Described as a “homecoming” and initially intended to showcase 60 of the artist’s paintings, the exhibition entitled “Tamara de Lempicka. A Woman on a Journey”, has taken on a new relevancy in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Talking to TFN, de Lempicka’s great-granddaughter Marisa de Lempicka said: “I think the exhibition and two paintings in particular, ‘Refugees’ and ‘Somewhere in Europe’’ are very topical in the context of the geo-political situation happening now.
“Tamara was a refugee twice, first in 1918-1919, when she was forced to flee St Petersburg from the Bolsheviks and went to Paris, and a second time in the 1930s when she sensed, before many other people, the growing dangers of the Nazi movement.
“Her second husband was Jewish and her parents were as well, and she convinced him that they had to flee Europe and they left for the US.”
It was against this backdrop, her fears of war and a journey into the unknown that Lempicka painted ‘Somewhere in Europe’.
The most major exhibition of the artist’s art in Poland in the last 50 years, the exhibition will showcase 60 of her paintings from the full spectrum of her career alongside memorabilia including paintbrushes, clothes, furniture and machines.
Marisa said: “Tamara spoke Polish to my grandmother and was very proud of her Polish heritage, she always said she was born in Poland, in Warsaw, and always considered herself Polish, so it’s only natural that there should be a major exhibition of her work in Poland.
“Until now we had had them in the US, in London, in Italy, but not Poland, so it is like she is coming home.”
A world-renowned art deco artist known for her glamour and primarily associated with the 1920s and 30s, de Lempicka’s popularity has continued to grow in the last few years with her ‘Portrait de Marjorie Ferry’, 1932, setting a new auction record for her work when it sold for GBP 16.2 million at London’s Christie’s auction house in February 2020.
That auction simultaneously made de Lempicka the world’s second most expensive female artist. Now in third place, only Georgia O’Keefe and Frida Kahlo have fetched higher price tags for their artworks.
Some of the works to be displayed at the new exhibition include the iconic ‘Young Lady in a Green Dress’, sometimes alternatively entitled ‘Young Lady in Gloves’, 1930, as well as ‘Refugees’, 1937 and ‘Somewhere in Europe’, 1940, alongside lesser known still-life paintings and drawings.
Marisa said: “I have one memory in particular when, as a child, I was staying with her in Mexico and she invited me into her room, which had lilac walls .
“She wanted to do a touch-up on a painting she was working on and she just turned around and started telling me about how her and her family lost everything when they were forced to flee St Petersburg.
“She promised herself that she would rebuild her life and work hard to recover what she had lost and she decided to set herself the goal of working hard enough to have a whole set of diamond bracelets reaching from her wrist to her elbow.
“To her, those diamond bracelets were her safety, if she ever needed to leave her home again and start over somewhere else, she could do it with the help of those diamond bracelets.”
Marisa added that she has now officially opened a charity online auction for one of de Lempicka's works, 'Printemps' or Spring, with the proceeds of the sale going to help refugees fleeing Ukraine.
Also on display will be a reproduction of her most iconic and most reproduced work ‘Self-portrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti)’.
Marisa said: “Some people don’t know this, but she didn’t actually drive a Bugatti. She drove a small yellow Renault, when she was a young artist and she liked to dress like her car, so Die Dame magazine [ a German Fashion Magazine] asked her to paint a picture of herself in her car, but she didn’t want to paint herself in a small Renault, instead she chose the most expensive car at the time and drew herself in that”.
Marisa, who set up the Tamara de Lempicka Estate and has been working for the last two-and-a-half years to popularise the memory of her great-grandmother, is now in the process of building a foundation which will store an archive of the valuable personal items she has inherited and which are connected with Lempicka including clothing, jewellery and also newspaper articles.
She is also in talks with producer Martin Brown who worked on ‘Moulin Rouge’ with Nicole Kidman, about the production of a film portraying Tamara’s life as well as a mini-series with Polish producer Sylwia Wilkos.
“Tamara de Lempicka. A Woman on a Journey” will run from 19th March – 14th August 2022 at the National Museum in Lublin, with works sourced from private collections as well as museums in France, including Centre Pompidou, MUDO Museum, André Malraux Museum of Modern Art and Nantes Museum of Fine Arts.
Marisa said: “I would love people to come to this exhibition and leave feeling inspired by her creative journey, her life and her travels.
“The works on display tell her entire life story and they show the best qualities she had: perseverance, resilience, hard work and a drive to follow your dreams.”