Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka, Portrait of Suzy Solidor

Tamara de Lempicka, Self-Portrait in the Green Bugatti, 1925

Intermezzo 1: Lilo

We speak of women artists, we find we share a love for Frida Kahlo, Tamara de Lempicka, Remedios Varo.


Early in the 20th century, in the period 1910-1930, the “artist as body” appeared. Examples include Tamara de Lempicka, whose very Art Déco aesthetic manifests itself with a rare meticulosity in her highly flamboyant portraits that evoke, with their distant echo of the Pre-Raphaelites, characters—both masculine and feminine—whose silhouettes and poses are very dandyish.

It is from Baudelaire, in literature, and Kierkegaard, in philosophy, that the definition of art as art comes into effect, no longer regarding only the work of art but the artist himself—or, better still, his life—as a work of art. And thus emerged, in terms of aesthetics, a new theme practically unknown until then: lifestyle as an art form, if not a full-blown work of art. This is the primary characteristic of dandyism.

This way of making art and life coincide, or more exactly, of elevating life’s pleasures to the level of artistic beauty, its supreme value as much as its intrinsic dignity, is of course what Oscar Wilde advocated in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Indeed, he has Lord Henry say, for example, “now and then a complex personality took the place and assumed the office of art, was indeed, in its way, a real work of art”. Directly echoing this, Wilde, in Chapter 11 of the novel, expatiates on the luxurious, refined and cultivated life led by the young Dorian Gray: “And, certainly, to him life itself was the first, the greatest, of the arts, and for it all the other arts seemed to be but a preparation.”


From Salvatore Schiffer Daniel, « Chapitre V. L’expression du dandy. Phénoménologie du corps artistique », Le dandysme, dernier éclat d’héroïsme, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France, « Intervention philosophique », 2010, p. 201-210. This passage translated by Richard Jonathan.
Laura Claridge has published a fine biography, Tamara de Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence (London: Bloomsbury, 2000).

Tamara de Lempicka by Dora Kallmus, Paris, 1929