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Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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Tamara de Lempicka
1898 - 1980
SUZANNE AU BAIN
signed De Lempicka (lower right)
oil on canvas
92.5 by 58.5cm.
36 3/8 by 23in.
Painted circa  1938.
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Provenance

Private Collection, Italy (acquired in 1990. Sold: Sotheby's, New York, 3rd November 2005, lot 330)

Purchased at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

New York, Paul Reinhardt Galleries, Tamara de Lempicka, Paintings and Portraits, 1939, no. 5

New York, Julien Levy Gallery, Tamara de Lempicka, 1941, no. 3

Milwaukee, Milwaukee Art Center, Tamara de Lempicka, 1942, no. 3

Rome, Académie de France (Villa Medici), Tamara de Lempicka, tra eleganza e trasgressione, 1994, no. 54, illustrated in the catalogue

Tokyo, Isetan Museum; Hiroshima, Museum of Fine Arts; Nagoya, Matsuzakaya & Osaka, Daimaru Museum, Tamara de Lempicka, 1997, no. 51, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, La Pinacothèque de Paris, Tamara de Lempicka, la Reine de l’Art déco, 2013, no. 91, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Literature

Marc Vaux, Fonds Lempicka, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, 1972

Giancarlo Marmori, Tamara de Lempicka. Les œuvres majeures de Tamara de Lempicka 1925 à 1935, Paris, 1978, mentioned p. 7

Germaine Bazin & Hiroyuki Itsuki, Tamara de Lempicka, Tokyo, 1980, no. 86, illustrated pp. 147 & 239

Wolfgang Joop, Tamara de Lempicka, Träume von Mythen und Moden, Offenburg, 1987, mentioned p. 21

Alain Blondel, Lempicka Catalogue Raisonné 1921-1979, Lausanne, 1999, no. B.207, detail illustrated in colour p. 298; illustrated  in colour p. 299

Catalogue Note

Suzanne au bain, painted circa 1938, can be seen as among the most important works Lempicka produced during the 1930s. Alain Blondel wrote of the painting: ‘In 1938 she began producing abundantly, and was, moreover, spurred on by an upcoming show in New York. She intended this work as one of the highlights of her show [Tamara de Lempicka, Paintings and Portraits] at the Paul Reinhardt Gallery, scheduled for the beginning  of May 1939’ (A. Blondel, op. cit., p. 298). Lempicka had come to New York only a few months earlier and Suzanne au bain became a central part of her efforts to promote herself in the United States. The work had already graced the cover of the catalogue for the Reinhardt exhibition, and Lempicka now initiated a campaign – quickly picked up by American newspapers and magazines - to find a model resembling the woman who had sat for Suzanne and who she could work with in her newly adopted homeland (fig. 1).

Suzanne au bain takes as its subject the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders, in which Susanna is ambushed by two elders of her community whilst bathing. They threaten to report her for adultery unless she submits to them - but she bravely refuses. Arrested and condemned to death following their accusations, she is rescued by a young Daniel who challenges the elders and exposes them as liars. In Suzanne au bain Lempicka offers her own, very contemporary, interpretation of the story. Choosing not to show the two old men, she makes Suzanne the focus of the composition; her figure fills the canvas, with the only suggestion of narrative confined to the elegantly modelled folds of the cloth that she rests on. Although exuding a softer sensuality, Susanna shares the same strong features and sculptural arabesques that characterise Lempicka’s celebrated nudes of the 1920s (fig. 3). This distinctly modern handling allows Lempicka to place the emphasis on the heroic female element of the story, transforming the painting into both a celebration of the female body and a tale for the modern age.

Susanna and the Elders was a common subject during the Renaissance (fig. 2) and is one of a number of biblical subjects that Lempicka painted during the late 1930s that reflect an increasing interest in Renaissance models. Lempicka might have been influenced in this by her marriage in 1933 to Baron Kuffner de Dioszegh who had inherited a large collection of Italian and Flemish Old Masters, but the masters of the past had been a source of inspiration throughout her career. Ingried Brugger writes: ‘De Lempicka’s ideal of the human form was perhaps less influenced by Ingres… than by the artists of the high and later Renaissance. The hypertrophied bodily forms of Michelangelo were a rich source of ideas for her. Ingres’ canon of arrested affects, his timeless poses and the shimmering surfaces of his paintings did, nevertheless, leave an unmistakeable mark on De Lempicka’s work. And the productive interplay in her paintings between Ingres and the plastic excess of the faces, figures and draped fabrics of the Renaissance led to a constant toing and froing of stasis and motion, inertia and vitality’ (I. Brugger in Tamara de Lempicka. Art Deco Icon (exhibition catalogue), Royal Academy of Arts London, 2004, p. 32).

Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale

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London