Tamara de Lempicka’s Glamorous Artwork and Its History at Auction

Priyanka Patil
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“Among a hundred paintings, you could recognize mine”- Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka, a noteworthy female artist of the Art Deco era, was famous for her expressive and sensual female paintings. Her inter-war artworks earned her the nickname ‘the baroness with a paintbrush.’

Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980)
Image source: Famous Painters
Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980)
Image source: Famous Painters

Tamara de Lempicka’s Art and Life

Portraits by Lempicka often depicted her elite subjects in tantalizing textures glowing in a flattering light. Tamara de Lempicka’s art portrayed influences from Neoclassicism and Cubism to Italian Mannerists like Bronzino and Botticelli. Her ability to fuse these contemporary and classical elements made her paintings unique.

Born in 1898 in Warsaw, Poland, Tamara de Lempicka was born in a wealthy home and spent most of her young age living in Italy and Switzerland. During this time, she was mainly impressed by the works of the Mannerist and Renaissance masters. It laid the foundation of her artistic interests. Fleeing to France after the beginning of the Russian Revolution in 1917, Lempicka got acquainted with artists Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso. In France, she became a prominent part of the Parisian avant-garde movement. With the fear of World War II, the artist moved to New York in 1939, where she developed her post-war Art Deco style. Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings in this style for the rest of her life.

Today, Tamara de Lempicka’s artworks from the Paris avant-garde during the 1920s and 30s are the most sought after. It was during this period that the artist enjoyed high acclaim, painting dukes and counts. Her portraits of women also have high demand in the art market. Among the top ten Tamara de Lempicka artworks, paintings of female subjects have sold at record-breaking prices.

The artist enjoyed a greater audience during her time in France. However, after the 1930s, Lempicka struggled to find the right subject. It dropped the demand for her work. However, her art was once again popular after the 1973 exhibition of her inter-war artworks at the Paris Palais du Luxembourg. 

Image Source: Christie’s
Image Source: Christie’s

Tamara de Lempicka’s art has been in high demand since her death in 1980 and attracted prominent personalities like Madonna and Barbara Streisand. Madonna was such a big fan of Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings that she added Lempicka’s images in the video of her famous song “Vogue.” The singer is also known to be a prominent collector of Lempicka’s artwork and helped restore their limelight.

Tamara de Lempicka at Auction

Over the years, Tamara de Lempicka’s nudes and portraits have been the top choice among glamorous art collectors, including celebrities. The 1927 portraiture by Lempicka titled Le réve (Rafaëla sur fond vert) was sold at a 2011 Sotheby’s auction in New York at the record-breaking price of USD 8.5 million.

Another prominent feature of Tamara de Lempicka’s art is its appeal to fashion. In her self-portraits, the artist often wore well-known brands like Coco Chanel. It led to the reproduction of her portraits in magazines like Harper’s Bazaar.

La Musicienne, 1929 by Tamara de Lempicka
Image source: Christie’s
La Musicienne, 1929 by Tamara de Lempicka
Image source: Christie’s

One notable example is the famous portrait of Ira Perrot, titled La Musicienne, where Perrot is playing the mandolin in a long blue dress. This portrait appeared on the cover of the German magazine Die Dame in 1930. La Musicienne broke Lempicka’s previous auction record by fetching $9.1 million at the November 2018 Christie’s sale in New York.

La Tunique Rose, 1927 by Tamara de Lempicka
Image Source: Sotheby’s
La Tunique Rose, 1927 by Tamara de Lempicka
Image Source: Sotheby’s

In November 2019, Lempicka’s La Tunique Rose (1927), portraying her popular subject Rafaela Fano was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in New York for $13.3 million. It broke Lempicka’s previous record with the highest estimate of $8 million. Rafaela, according to Lempicka, was “the most beautiful woman I’ve (Lempicka) ever seen.”

Portrait de Marjorie Ferry,1932 by Tamara de Lempicka 
Image source: Christie’s
Portrait de Marjorie Ferry,1932 by Tamara de Lempicka 
Image source: Christie’s

Temara de Lempicka’s artwork broke her November 2019 record just three months later, on February 5th, 2020. Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art auction in London sold Portrait de Marjorie Ferry by Lempicka for $21.1 million. The 1932 Jazz Age monochromatic portrait features cabaret singer Ferry in Paris. The painting of Marjorie Ferry was commissioned originally by the singer’s wealthy husband. It portrays Ferry in Lempicka’s signature style involving the play of light and pronounced angles. The same painting was also offered previously at a 2009 auction and sold at $4.9 million to Wolfgang Joop- a German fashion designer.

The art market has seen a constant rise in the demand for Tamara de Lempicka artworks over the last few years. Nearly 20 paintings by the Art Deco painter have garnered more than $1 million at auctions. The glamour and sensuality of her artworks and the availability of top works by Lempicka are a few reasons for the constant demand in the collector’s market.

UPDATE, AUGUST 2021: Auctions with Tamara de Lempicka’s artwork continue to drive spirited bidding. In 2021, Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Phillips have all offered Tamara de Lempicka drawings and paintings. That included a still life painting, Nature morte aux mandarines, which nearly doubled its high estimate of $220,000 when it achieved $438,500 with Sotheby’s in June 2021. That same month, Christie’s met its high estimate of $150,000 with a Tamara de Lempicka painting, Figure de femme. And even Tamara de Lempicka drawings have crossed the auction block, including  L’Enlèvement des Sabines, which depicts a woman held in the air by a man, both of their faces hidden from the viewer.

Want to read more about notable artists’ auction histories? Here’s a look at Banksy’s career and auction records. 

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James Ardis
James Ardis
Senior Writer and Editor

James Ardis is a writer, editor, and content strategist focused on the auction industry. His company, James Ardis Writing, has partnered with auction houses, galleries, and many clients outside the art world.

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