So, you’ve long wondered what nerdy passions lurk beneath the surface of your friendly art library staff. Well, today’s your lucky day. In the following series of posts you’ll find accounts of the art historical crushes that we carry in our hearts as we stamp your checkouts or tidy up the stacks. They cause us to pause by a familiar monograph, to take it down from the shelf as our hearts skip a beat. Today we share these three posts, which serve as our collective valentine to some of the artists we so adore.
Valentine #1 — for Tamara de Lempicka, from Eva
Valentine #2 — for Claude Cahun, from Madeline
Valentine #3 — for Sophie Calle, from Josh
Bonus Valentine! — for Albrecht Dürer, from Heather
Tamara de Lempicka in an evening gown by Marcel Rochas. Photo by Madame d'Ora ca. 1931, Alain and Michèle Blondel collection.
Look out – dandy coming through
Tamara de Lempicka: The queen of modern.
Tamara de Lempicka: Goddess of the automobile age.
And my particular favorite, from a blurb for the latter book:
Tamara de Lempicka: “…a female dandy brimming with cool elegance”
Tamara de Lempicka could not even begin her artistic career in a boring way. Debuting in Paris in the Salon d’Automne in 1922, Tamara was widely admired as Monsieur Lempitzky, her male Russian alter ego.
Images and egos, alter or not, were a big part of Tamara’s life. She cultivated her image as a glamorous, fast-moving, aristocratic artist/starlet (an artlet?), and she seems to have been more than happy living the life. Tamara had a reputation even at the time for her love of elegant automobiles, the modern metropolis, and beautiful women.
Tamara de Lempicka, My Portrait, 1929; private collection.
Her art bears this reputation out. In her most famous self-portrait, she depicts herself with flowing scarf and immaculate gloves, slouching languorously behind the wheel of a convertible, an untouchable poise in her eyes.
Tamara de Lempicka, Rafaëla sur fond vert (Le rêve), July 1927, private collection, courtesy Duhamel Fine Art.
She also produced myriad images of those aforementioned beautiful women, including a particularly sensual series featuring one model, Rafaela. The unabashedly gorgeous lines and shapes in her paintings just lure me in further, as does Tamara’s clearly evident appreciation of them. The recent publication of a novel exploring her relationship with Rafaela, The Last Nude, doesn’t hurt my interest, either. (We don’t have a copy at Sloane yet, although there is one at Davis Library. Did I mention that my birthday is coming up?)
Of course, this high-flying lifestyle probably wouldn’t make her the best choice for a life partner — but aren’t crushes supposed to be a little unreasonable?
Information and images from: Tamara de Lempicka: The Queen of Modern