Sale: Christie's, New York, November 10, 1999, lot 611
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Ellen Thormann, Tamara de Lempicka, Kunstkritik und Kunstlerinnen in Paris, Berlin, 1993, no. 24
Gioa Mori, Tamara de Lempicka, Parigi 1920-1938, Florence, 1994, no. 35, illustrated in color p. 239
Alain Blondel, Tamara de Lempicka, Catalogue raisonné 1921-1979, Lausanne, 1999, no. B58, p. 128, illustrated in color p. 129
Patrick Bade, Tamara de Lempicka, Singapore, 2006, illustrated in color pp. 36-37
Precision, clarity and solidity were the definitive characteristics of Lempicka's pictures from this era, and the present painting exemplifies her attention to these factors. "I looked for a métier that did not exist any longer," she would recall. "I aimed at technique, métier, simplicity, and good taste. My goal: Do not copy. Create a new style, colors light and bright, return to elegance in my models" (quoted in Passion by Design, pp. 52-53). Lempicka explicitly rejected the "destruction" of Picasso's Cubism and looked instead to the old masters for inspiration, particularly the 16th century Italian Mannerists like Pontormo and Michelangelo. When in 1925 the critic Arsène Alexandre noted the "perverse Ingrism" in Lempicka's submissions to the Salon d'Automne that year, the artist was flattered by the comparison to the great French neoclassical painter and by the critical recognition of her salacious thematic risks.
In a recent retrospective of the artist's work, Gioia Mori has written the following about the novelty of Lempicka's nudes of this period, and her comments provide an insightful analysis of the present work: "In 1925 the nudes presented at the various Salons all had a Rubsenesque exuberance of flesh, from those by Derain to those by Ottmann, to mention just the most illustrated in the various reviews. The nudes of de Lempicka, though, have peculiarities that the critics did not fail to point out: the perspectival distortion and the renditions of the flesh that, as the reviewer of Le Populaire wrote, was masterly. Gigantism and smooth, solid flesh as though cut from marble were the result of de Lempicka's study of sculpture. Among the contemporary models, the female nudes of Maillol were the closest to her own sensibility, demonstrating clearly the groin, the perfect curves of the thighs, and the rounded belly" (Gioia Mori, Tamara de Lempicka, The Queen of Modern (exhibition catalogue), Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, 2011, p. 160).
While critics at large tended to draw parallels between the overt references to female sexuality and the artist's own risqué lifestyle, Lempicka welcomed the comparisons in the hopes that they would help gain publicity for her art. The artist cultivated her persona as a woman of the world, whose own personal sexual expression knew few limitations. This careful crafting of illusion carried over into her compositions, which were similarly stylized and demonstrated an exacting attention to detail. Presented as stream-lined as a modern race care, the figure here exemplifies the cool and powerful nonchalance which Lempicka herself would project in public.
This work has been requested for the forthcoming exhibition, Tamara de Lempicka, to be held at the Pinacotèque de Paris from April 10 to September 10, 2013.
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