Tamara Łempicka (born Tamara Rosalia Gurwik-Górska; 16 May 1898 – 18 March 1980), better known as Tamara de Lempicka, was a Polish painter who spent her working life in France and the United States. She is best known for her polished Art Deco portraits of aristocrats and the wealthy, and for her highly stylized paintings of nudes.
Born in Warsaw, Lempicka briefly moved to Saint Petersburg where she married Tadeusz Łempicki, a prominent Polish lawyer, then travelled to Paris. She studied painting with Maurice Denis and André Lhote. Her style was a blend of late, refined cubism and the neoclassical style, particularly inspired by the work of Jean-Dominique Ingres. She was an active participant in the artistic and social life of Paris between the wars. In 1928 she became the mistress of Baron Raoul Kuffner, a wealthy art collector from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. After her divorce from Łempicki in 1931 and the death of his wife in 1933, Kuffner married Lempicka in 1934, and thereafter she became known in the press as "The Baroness with a Brush".
Following the outbreak of World War II in 1939, she and her husband moved to the United States and she painted celebrity portraits, as well as still lifes and, in the 1960s, some abstract paintings. Her work was out of fashion after World War II, but made a comeback in the late 1960s, with the rediscovery of Art Deco. She moved to Mexico in 1974, where she died in 1980. At her request, her ashes were scattered over the Popocatépetl volcano.
Tamara de Lempicka was born on 16 May 1898, in Warsaw, then part of Congress Poland of the Russian Empire. Her father was Boris Gurwik-Górski, a Russian Jewish attorney for a French trading company, and her mother was Malwina Dekler, a Polish-Jewish socialite who had lived most of her life abroad and who met her husband at one of the European spas.
Tamara was raised in Warsaw by her mother and grandparents, Bernard and Klementyna Dekler, who were members of the social and cultural elite – they were friends with Ignacy Jan Paderewski and Artur Rubinstein.
When Tamara was ten, her mother commissioned a pastel portrait of her by a prominent local artist. She detested posing and was dissatisfied with the finished work. She took the pastels, had her younger sister pose, and made her first portrait.
In 1911 her parents sent her to a boarding school in Lausanne, Switzerland, but she was bored and she feigned illness to be permitted to leave the school. Instead, her grandmother took her on a tour of Italy, where she developed her interest in art. After her parents divorced in 1912, she chose to spend the summer with her wealthy Aunt Stefa in Saint Petersburg. There, in 1915, she met and fell in love with a prominent Polish lawyer, Tadeusz Łempicki (1888–1951). Her family offered him a large dowry, and they were married in 1916 in the chapel of the Knights of Malta in St. Petersburg.
The Russian Revolution in November 1917 overturned their comfortable life. In December 1917, Tadeusz Łempicki was arrested in the middle of the night by the Cheka, the secret police. Tamara searched the prisons for him, and with the help of the Swedish consul, to whom she offered her favors, she secured his release. They traveled to Copenhagen then to London and finally to Paris, where Tamara's family had also found refuge.
In Paris, the Łempickis lived for a while from the sale of family jewels. Tadeusz proved unwilling or unable to find suitable work. Their daughter, Marie-Christine de Lempicka, "Kizette", was born on 16 September 1919, adding to their financial needs.
Tamara de Lempicka decided to become a painter at her sister's suggestion, and studied both at the Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts and Académie de la Grande Chaumière with Maurice Denis and then with André Lhote, who was to have a greater influence on her style. Her first paintings were stilllifes and portraits of her daughter Kizette and her neighbor. She sold her first paintings through the Galerie Colette-Weil, which allowed her to exhibit at the Salon des indépendents, the Salon d'automne, and the Salon des moins de trente ans, for promising young painters. She exhibited at the Salon d'automne for the first time in 1922. During this period, she signed her paintings "Lempitzki"—the masculine form of her name.
Her breakthrough came in 1925, with the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts, which later gave its name to the style Art Deco. She exhibited her paintings in two of the major venues, the Salon des Tuileries and the Salon des femmes peintres. Her paintings were spotted by American journalists from Harper's Bazaar and other fashion magazines, and her name became known.
In the same year, she had her first major exposition in Milan, Italy, organized for her by Count Emmanuele Castelbarco. For this show, Lempicka painted 28 new works in six months. During her Italian tour, she took a new lover, the Marquis Sommi Picenardi. She was also invited to meet the famous Italian poet and playwright Gabriele d'Annunzio. She visited him twice at his villa on Lake Garda, seeking to paint his portrait; he, in turn, was set on seduction. After her unsuccessful attempts to secure the commission, she went away angry, while d'Annunzio also remained unsatisfied.
In 1927, Lempicka won her first major award, the first prize at the Exposition Internationale des Beaux Arts in Bordeaux, France, for her portrait of Kizette on the Balcony, which she named "Girl on a Balcony".
In 1928 she was divorced from Tadeusz Łempicki. That same year, she met Raoul Kuffner, a baron of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and an art collector. His title was not an ancient one; his family had been granted the title by the second-to-last Austro-Hungarian Emperor, Franz-Joseph I, because Kuffner's family had been the supplier of beef and beer to the imperial court. He owned properties of considerable size in eastern Europe. He commissioned her to paint his mistress, the Spanish dancer Nana de Herrera; after its completion, Lempicka and the baron began their relationship.
Tamara de Lempicka bought an apartment on rue Méchain in Paris and had it decorated by the modernist architect Robert Mallet-Stevens and her own sister Adrienne de Montaut. The furniture was by René Herbst. The austere, functional interiors appeared in decoration magazines.
In 1928, Tamara de Lempicka painted a portrait of her daughter Kizette at her First Communion, and it won a bronze medal at the international exposition in Poznań, Poland the next year.
In 1929, Lempicka also painted one of her best-known works, Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti), for the cover of the German fashion magazine Die Dame. This showed her at the wheel of a Bugatti racing car wearing a leather helmet and gloves and wrapped in a gray scarf, a portrait of cold beauty, independence, wealth, and inaccessibility. In fact, she did not own a Bugatti automobile; her own car was a small yellow Renault, which was stolen one night when she and her friends were celebrating at La Rotonde in Montparnasse.
Again in 1929, She traveled to the United States for the first time to paint a portrait of Joan Jeffery, the fiancée of the American oilman Rufus T. Bush and to arrange a show of her work at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. The exposition was a success, but the money she earned was lost when the bank she used collapsed following the stock market crash of 1929. The portrait of Joan Jeffery, was completed but put into storage following her divorce from Rufus T. Bush in 1932. It would stay in the storage for more than 60 years until it was sold for 4.59 million by Christies in 2004, following the death of Joan Jeffery (then Mrs.Vanderpool after her second marriage).
Tamara de Lempicka's career reached a peak during the 1930s. She painted portraits of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of Greece. Museums began to collect her works. In 1933, she traveled to Chicago where her pictures were shown alongside those of Georgia O'Keeffe, Santiago Martínez Delgado, and Willem de Kooning. Despite the Great Depression, she continued to receive commissions and showed her work at several Paris galleries.
The wife of Baron Kuffner died in 1933. De Lempicka married him on 3 February 1934 in Zurich. She was alarmed by the rise of the Nazis and persuaded her husband to sell most of his properties in Hungary and to move his fortune and his belongings to Switzerland.
In the winter of 1939, following the outbreak of World War II, Tamara de Lempicka and her husband moved to the United States. They settled first in Los Angeles. The Paul Reinhard Gallery organized a show of her work, and they moved to Beverly Hills, settling into the former residence of the film director King Vidor. Shows of her work were organized at the Julian Levy Gallery in New York, the Courvoisier Galleries in San Francisco, and the Milwaukee Institute of Art, but her shows did not have the success she had hoped for.
In 1941 her daughter Kizette was able to escape from occupied France via Lisbon and joined them in Los Angeles. Kizette married a Texas geologist, Harold Foxhall.
In 1943, Baron Kuffner and de Tamara de Lempicka relocated to New York City.
In the postwar years, she continued a frenetic social life, but she had fewer commissions for society portraits. Her art deco style looked anachronistic in the period of postwar modernism and abstract expressionism. She had a show at the Ror Volmar Gallery in Paris in May and June 1961, but it did not revive her earlier success.
She expanded her subject matter to include still lifes, and in 1960 she began to paint abstract works and to use a palette knife instead of her smooth earlier brushwork. She also sometimes reworked earlier pieces in her new style. For example, The crisp and direct Amethyste (1946) became the pink and fuzzy Girl with Guitar (1963).
Baron Kuffner died of a heart attack in November 1961 on the ocean liner Liberté en route to New York. Following his death, Lempicka sold many of her possessions and made three around-the-world trips by ship.
In 1963, Lempicka moved to Houston, Texas, to be with her daughter Kizette and her family and retired from her life as a professional artist. She continued to repaint her earlier works. She repainted her well-known Autoportrait (1929) twice between 1974 and 1979; Autoportrait II was sold, though she hung Autoportrait III in her retirement apartments, where it would remain until her death. The last work she painted was the fourth copy of her painting of St. Anthony.
In 1974, Tamara de Lempicka decided to move to Cuernavaca, Mexico. A few years later in 1979, Kizette's husband Foxy died of cancer at age 58, and Kizette moved to Cuernavaca to take care of de her mother, whose health was declining.
De Lempicka died in her sleep on 18 March 1980. Following her wishes, her ashes were scattered over the volcano Popocatépetl.
After her death, Tamara de Lempicka's early Art Deco paintings were being shown and purchased once again.
A stage play, Tamara, was inspired by her meeting with Gabriele D'Annunzio and was first staged in Toronto; it then ran in Los Angeles for eleven years (1984–1995) at the Hollywood American Legion Post, making it the longest running play in Los Angeles, and some 240 actors were employed over the years. The play was also subsequently produced at the Seventh Regiment Armory in New York City.
In 2005, the actress and artist Kara Wilson performed Deco Diva, a one-woman stage play based on Lempicka's life.
Her life and her relationship with one of her models is fictionalized in Ellis Avery's novel The Last Nude, which won the American Library Association Stonewall Book Awards Barbara Gittings Literature Award for 2013.
In November 2019 Tamara de Lempicka's painting La Tunique rose (1927) was sold at Sotheby's for $13.4 million. In February 2020, her painting Portrait de Marjorie Ferry (1932) set a record for a work by Lempicka by fetching £16.3 million ($21.2 million) at the Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale at Christie's, London.
Catharina "Toto" Koopman (28 October 1908 – 27 August 1991) was a Dutch-Javanese model who worked in Paris prior to World War II. During that war she served as a spy for the Italian Resistance and was captured and held prisoner in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. She later helped establish the Hanover Gallery as one of the most influential art galleries in Europe in the 1950s.
Born in Java in 1908, Catharina Koopman was the daughter of the Dutch cavalry officer Jan George Koopman and Catharina Johanna Westrik, of Dutch and Javanese descent. She was named Catharina, but came to prefer Toto, her childhood nickname after her father's favourite horse. Her only sibling, Henry, nicknamed Ody Koopman (1902–1949), became a successful tennis player.
Toto Koopman left Java in 1920 to attend a boarding school in the Netherlands where she developed a talent for languages and became fluent in English, French, German and Italian. After a year at an English finishing school, she moved to Paris to work as a model.
In Paris, Koopman worked as a house model for Coco Chanel but quit after only six months. She also worked for the designers Rochas, Mainbocher and Madeleine Vionnet, appeared regularly in Vogue Paris and was photographed by Edward Steichen, Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst and George Hoyningen-Huene. Her most famous photo, was one that taken by George Hoymingen-Huene with her modeling an Augusta Bernard evening dress with very low back.
Koopman had a small part in the film The Private Life of Don Juan and although this was cut from the final production she still attended the film's premiere with Tallulah Bankhead, who introduced her to Max Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, generally known as Lord Beaverbrook.
Although Lord Beaverbrook was thirty years older than Koopman, the two began, in 1934, an affair that lasted some years. He was happy to pay for her travels throughout Europe in the 1930s and she often attended opera performances in Germany and Italy. When Beaverbrook discovered that Koopman was also in a relationship with his son, Max Aitken, he ran a series of stories in the newspapers he owned, including the Daily Express and the London Evening Standard, that made Koopman an outcast in London high-society. Koopman and the younger Aitken lived together for four years but he ended the relationship when she refused to marry him. In fact Koopman had signed an agreement with Beaverbrook which granted her a pension for life from him provided she did not marry his son.
In 1939 Toto Koopman left London to live in Italy. There she began a relationship with a leader of the anti-Mussolini resistance. When World War II broke out, she agreed to use her contacts and language skills to spy for the Italian Resistance. She infiltrated meetings of the Black Shirts but was captured. After spells in prisons in Milan and Lazio she was sent to the Massa Martina detention camp but escaped and hid in the mountains around Perugia, where she worked with a local resistance group. She was recaptured, promptly escaped again, and made her way to Venice. There, in October 1944, Koopman was caught spying on high-ranking German officers in the Danieli Hotel and quickly deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Very shortly before the camp was liberated in April 1945, the Nazi authorities released several hundred prisoners, including Koopman, to the care of the Red Cross in Sweden. Randolph Churchill, the son of Winston Churchill, one of Toto Koopman's former boyfriends, went to Gothenburg and helped the emaciated Koopman obtain new clothes, a new passport and a wig for her shaved head.
While recuperating in Ascona in 1945, Koopman met the art dealer Erica Brausen who would become the love of her life. The two became lovers and would remain together for the rest of their lives.
Brausen wanted to open her own commercial gallery in London, so Koopman helped her. They went to London and opened theHanover Gallery. There they hosted shows by the then still new artists like Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Marel Duchamp and Henry Moore, in particular Francis Bacon, with whom Brausen was obssessed.
In due course the Hanover Gallery became one of the most influential galleries in Europe, which was noted both for the artists it featured and the unusual two women who owned it.
During the 1950s Koopman studied at the University of London and took part in several archaeological excavations. She made a donation of books to the Institute of Archaeology in London.
In 1959 Koopman and Brausen bought a property on the island of Panarea where they built six villas amongst extensive gardens and entertained very lavishly.
The two women continued to live together until Toto Koopman's death in August 1991. Erica Brausen "locked herself in a room with the body for 8 days, emerging only to buy fresh roses that she would arrange around Koopman's face every morning".
18 months later, Erica Brausen followed her to the tomb.
Travis Banton (August 18, 1894 – February 2, 1958) was an American costume designer. He is perhaps best known for his long collaboration with actress Marlene Dietrich and director Josef von Sternberg. He is generally considered one of the most important Hollywood costume designers of the golden age.
Born in Waco, Texas, Travis Banton moved to New York City as a child. He was educated at Columbia University and at the Art Students League of New York where he studied art and fashion design.
An early apprenticeship with a high-society costume dressmaker earned him fame. When Mary Pickford selected one of his dresses for her wedding to Douglas Fairbanks, his reputation was established.
He opened his own dressmaking salon in New York City, and soon was asked to create costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1924, Banton moved to Hollywood when Paramount contracted with him to create costumes for his first film, The Dressmaker from Paris.
Beginning with Norma Talmadge in Poppy, Banton designed clothing for Pola Negri and Clara Bow in the 1920s. When designer Howard Greer left Paramount in 1929, Travis Banton was promoted to Head Designer and was responsible for dressing the studio's most illustrious stars.
Glamour, subtle elegance, and exquisite fabrics endeared Travis Banton to the most celebrated of Hollywood's beauties and made him one of the most sought-after costume designers of his era. As viewings of such films as The Gilded Lily (1935) and Desire (1936) reveal, his costume designs were marked by form-flattering cuts (often on the bias), rich fabrics (such as satin and lamé), and extravagant textures (beads, fur, and feathers). He collaborated closely with directors and actresses in order to fulfil their vision.
His position as head designer at Paramount, while gave Banton rare prestiges, put him under constant pressure of designing on time, he started drinking and his alcoholism worsened over the years. In 1938 Banton was forced to leave Paramount(according to some commentators also at the instigation of his assistant Edith Head)
In the 1930s and 1940s Banton designed for such stars as Kay Francis, Lilyan Tashman, Sylvia Sidney, Gail Patrick, Helen Vinson, and Claudette Colbert. Ultimately, Banton may be best remembered for forging the style of such Hollywood icons as Carole Lombard, Marlene Dietrich, and Mae West. Dietrich and Banton had an especially close and successful collaboration. His work for Dietrich is still frequently referenced by designers.
From 1939 to 1941, Travis Banton worked for Twentieth Century-Fox as Howard Greer's assistant, then shortly for Columbia Pictures. From 1945 to 1948 Banton worked as head stylist for Universal Studios.
In more than two decades working for Hollywood, Travis Banton has created costumes for many of the Hollywood stars of his era, including:
Renowned and remembered as Marlene Dietrich's image maker in history, Travis Baton had a more intimate relationship with Carole Lombard for whom he designed her off screen wardrobe as well as her on screen ones.
Travis Banton died of throat cancer on February 2, 1958, in Los Angeles. He was buried on February 4 at the Little Church of the Flowers in Glendale, California. An extensive collection of Banton's drawings is housed in the Brooklyn Museum.