Monday, August 1, 2022

The Art of Tamara De Lempicka

Tamara De Lempicka (1898 - 1980) was an artist whose most famous work was popular during the height of the Art Deco period. Her bold style, combined with rich colors, captured the elegance of Parris during the 1920s.

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Jeune Fille Vert. c. 1929.
Oil on canvas. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris.)

She was independent, opinionated, and attractive. She embraced her feminine sexuality and used it to her best advantage as she charmed her way into some of her time's most prominent art circles of her time. When well-behaved women rarely made history, she would not go unnoticed and eventually collaborated with other famous artists such as Pablo Picasso and Georgia O'Keeffe.

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Autoportrait. c. 1925.
Oil on wood. Private collection.)

She was born in 1898 to a wealthy family in Poland. Her parents divorced when she was thirteen, so she moved to St. Petersburg, Russia, to live with her aunt Sefa. Her mother eventually remarried and sent for her, but having grown up in boarding schools, she was already independent and wanted freedom from the aristocratic family. It was a man's world and an aristocracy at this time in Russia. The only way out for women was to marry. 

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Femme dans Dentelle.)

When Tamara was only fifteen, she spotted the man of her dreams in the audience at the opera in 1913. Although her groom-to-be was a well-known ladies' man, her hefty dowry appealed to the prominent attorney, and they were married three years later. Sadly, the newlyweds would not find happiness. In 1917, Russia was in chaos.  

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Les Filles. c. 1928. Oil on canvas.)

The Bolshevik party, made up of the working class, began to revolt against the aristocracy. They broke into their house in the night and arrested Tamara's husband. The Petrograd was overthrown with the Red Army rising. During the October Revolution, she searched the prisons for weeks to find her husband. Once found, she secured his release by flirting with the necessary officials. They, with many other upper-class refugees who managed to escape, fled to Paris.

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Portrait de Madame Boucard. c. 1931.
Oil on canvas. Collection Boucard, Paris.)

The couple did not fare well in financial ruin as refugees. Tamara supported them initially by selling her family jewelry. Her aristocratic husband was unable or reluctant to find a job, while Tamara gave birth to their first and only child, Kizette. The domestic situation put a significant strain on the relationship. Tamara took matters into her own hands and began painting portraits to support them.

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Kizette Sleeping. c. 1934.)

At this time in the 1920s, Paris evolved as the epicenter of the bohemian lifestyle, embracing creativity, diversity, decadence, and extravagance. In this hot spot of expressive society, Tamara became fascinated with the idea of seduction and the effects of desire. She started to paint from live nudes, which was unheard of for any female during this time.

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Printemps. c. 1928. Private collection.)

Tamara began spending more time in the studio than at home to support the family and developed a busy social life to earn commissions. She publically associated with the novelist Violet Trefusis, most notable for her openly gay love affair with Vita Sackville-West, and with the scandalous French novelist and former actress Colette, also known for her famous lesbian kiss on the stage of the Moulin Rouge, which nearly caused a riot at the time. The police were called in to suppress the public.

Collaboration with Picasso and Braque heavily influenced her toward "soft cubism," but eventually, she intentionally developed her own signature style. Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Tamara painted the openly gay French singer and actress Suzy Solidor at different times. In Tarama's case, they eventually became romantically involved with each other. 

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Suzy Solidor. c. 1933. Oil on wood.)

Frustrated by Tamara's rumored sex life, her husband abandoned her. They divorced in 1928. With her newfound freedom, she soon became obsessed with her work and her ongoing social life. She was commissioned to paint the mistress of her long-time patron, Baron Raoul Kuffner. Tamara finished the piece and then took her place as the new mistress.

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Femme a Guitare. c. 1929.
Oil on canvas. Private collection.)

Tamara traveled to Chicago in 1933, where she met and collaborated with Georgia O'Keeffe, Santiago Martinez Delgado, and Willem de Kooning. Tamara married her lover, Baron Raoul Kuffner. After his wife passed away, they eventually moved to the United States.

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Andromeda. c. 1929. Private collection.)

The famous pop star and actress Madonna is a huge fan and collector of Lempicka's work. Andromeda was featured at the beginning of Madonna's "Open Your Heart" video in 1987. Femme a Guitare was also shown at the beginning of Madonna's "Vogue" video in 1990.

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Portrait de Marjorie Ferry. c. 1932.)

The set, fashion, and costumes of Madonna's "Express Yourself" video in 1989 were heavily influenced by the Portrait of Marjorie and Dormeuse

(De Lempicka, Tamara. Dormeuse.)

Tamara was a pioneer in the twentieth-century art arena for women and proved that they could not just be models but be on the other side of the easel as professionals. Her contribution and unique style is much appreciated here!

Enjoy :)

Saturday, March 26, 2022

The Art of Artemisia Gentileschi

The Art of Artemisia Gentileschi

Written by Christy Olsen

Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 – 1656) was a female Italian Baroque painter in a time when women were not accepted as artists, and most were certainly not allowed to paint unless they lived in an Abbey. Today she is considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation of artists who came after Caravaggio and is well known for painting courageous or strong-minded women from mythology.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Self Portrait. c. 1638. oil on canvas. Royal Collection, Windsor.)

Gentileschi was born in Rome. Her mother passed away when she was twelve. Her grieving father unexpectedly took her on as his apprentice and taught her how to paint like a master. She was the daughter of Orazio Gentileschi, an accomplished painter, and talented artist. He introduced her to the famous artists of Rome of the time, including the infamous Caravaggio with whom he was close friends. Caravaggio casually stopped by their home to borrow props and perhaps even encouraged her to paint. 

In 1611 when Artemisia was 18 years old, Agostino Tassi, an artist who worked with her father, unfortunately, secluded and raped her. When her father found out, he demanded justice and filed formal charges against Tassi for the injury and damage to his daughter's honor.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Judith and her Maidservant. c. 1612-1613. oil on canvas. Galleria Palatina, Florence.)

The trial was horrendous and lasted over seventeen months. Artemisia was physically tortured publicly in the courtroom to recant her statement and test the truth of her accusations. Tassi also presented painful counter-accusations that she was not a virgin, a whore, and a talentless painter. 

During the trial and after, Gentileschi began to design and paint the story of Judith slaying Holofernes from the Bible. Judith was already a popular subject matter of the time, but Gentileschi's portrayal is both original and presents a unique perspective.

Tassi was finally convicted and sentenced to prison for the rape but he only served less than one year. He was freed because he had connections with the pope.

(Gentileschi, Artemisia. Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes. c. 1625. oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts.)

Artemisia's style is characterized by "tenebrism," from the Italian word "tenebroso" (dark or gloomy), which describes a painting style where dark colors dominate over the light ones or the extreme contrasts of light and dark areas have dramatic illumination.

In 1614, Gentileschi became the first official female member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence, only made possible by her most famous patron, the Grand Duke Cosimo II of the Medici family. Artemisia's unusual liberties combined with her traumatic experience allowed her to create some of the best chiaroscuro paintings of that time, and her work is much appreciated here!

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

The Art of M.C. Escher

Written by Christy Olsen

Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898 – 1972) was a famous Dutch graphic artist otherwise known as M.C. Escher. Uniquely left-handed like Leonardo and Michelangelo, his optical illusions, mind-boggling puzzles, and mathematically inspired woodcuts, mezzotints, and lithographs prints are still in high demand today.

(Escher, M.C. Ascending and Descending. c. 1960. lithograph)

Born in Leeuwarden in the Netherlands, Escher was the fourth child. His family moved to Arnhem, where he spent most of his childhood. His father, a working civil engineer, significantly influenced Escher's obsession with architecture and mathematics. Although incredibly intelligent, Escher failed all of his exams in high school and barely made it into the School for Architecture and Decorative Arts in Haarlem.

However, his graphic art teacher, Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita, looked at his sketches and immediately encouraged him to continue on with the visual arts. With only one week at the school, Escher informed his father that he would study graphic art instead of architecture.

(Escher, M.C. Sky and Water. c. 1938. woodcut)

Escher traveled to Italy after finishing school and was inspired by the countryside. He spent long hours drawing and sketching the designs for the various prints that he would make after returning home. In addition to several trips to Italy, Escher also traveled through Switzerland and Spain. He met his wife in Italy in 1924, and they were both settled in Rome by 1935. As the rise of fascism became prominent, they moved to the Netherlands, where Escher spent the rest of his life.

The patterns that were sculpted into the walls of the Alhambra, a fourteenth-century Moorish castle in Granada, Spain, and the tessellations found on the floors of the Italian basilicas and churches had a significant influence on Escher's work.

(Escher, M.C. Reptiles. c. 1943. lithograph)

Tessellations are created from repeating shapes covering a plane without gaps or overlaps. A reoccurring theme in Escher's later work. His artistic style is characterized by positive and negative shapes interacting together built around the concepts of infinity, unrealistic constructions, and architecture.

Manipulated architecture, perspective drawing, and fantasy, Escher created his own unique worlds with meticulous detail, mathematically accurate but physically impossible, and his work is amazing!

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

To all of the community from all of the Art Verve instructors, Happy Holidays!