By 1922, the artist began exhibiting her work in the Paris salons, and through her exposure to the avant-garde developed a unique Art Deco style of painting that was unlike her male contemporaries. While asserting a distinct style of the artist’s own making, Lempicka’s oeuvre incorporates stylistic elements from diverse periods and genres, bearing affinities with the geometric compositions of her Futurist and Precisionist contemporaries as well as recalling the dramatic sensuality of Renaissance figures and Neo-Classical odalisques (see fig. 1). Indebted to a love of fashion, theater and the human form, Lempicka’s paintings are uniquely characterized by her precise draftsmanship, Caravaggesque lighting and evocative figuration. Lempicka proudly believed that she stood out among artists of her day. “I was the first woman who did clear painting—and that was the success of my painting,” she later wrote. “Among a hundred paintings, you could recognize mine. And the galleries began to put me in the best rooms, always in the center, because my painting attracted people. It was neat, it was finished” (quoted in K. de Lempicka-Foxhall, Passion by Design, New York, 1987, p. 53).
Beyond her fastidious attention to line and composition, Lempicka possessed a talent for portraying women in a sexualized yet empowering way. A dazzling example of Lempicka’s “clear” yet multifaceted work, La Tunique rose presents a rich tableau balanced by piercing lines and sumptuous curves, her radiant figure highlighted by dramatic chiaroscuro and the pop of silky color against swells of sensuous skin. Showcasing her sculptor’s eye and ability to depict a spirit of elegance and vitality, Lempicka presents a rare example of the artist’s full-length figures in La Tunique rose. The artist’s appreciation of the female form and its power also recalls the once-scandalous nudes of Modgliani, whose works presented women in full possession of their sexuality, often with knowing and solicitous gazes which shocked audiences and authorities at the time (see fig. 2).
The luxuriant model in the present work is Rafaëla, one of Lempicka’s most famed muses and lovers. Upon first encountering the enchanting Rafaëla in the Bois de Boulogne, Lempicka boldly propositioned her: “Suddenly I became aware of a woman walking some distance in front of me. As she walks, everyone coming in the opposite direction stops and looks at her. They turn their heads as she passes by. I am curious. What is so extraordinary that they are doing this? I walk very quickly until I pass her, then I turn around and come back down the path in the opposite direction then I see why everyone stops. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen—huge black eyes, beautiful sensuous mouth, beautiful body. I stop her and say to her ‘Mademoiselle, I’m a painter and I would like you to pose for me. Would you do this?’ She says ‘Yes. Why not?’” (P. Bade, op. cit., p. 59).
Rafaëla features heavily in the artist’s oeuvre, including a pendant to the present work painted the following month (see fig. 3). According to leading Lempicka scholar Gioia Mori, “The beautiful Rafaëla first appeared in 1927; Lempicka wrote the months during which she did the painting on the backs of photographs of the picture with a loving care destined for remembrance. It is a sort of private diary from which we learn that the first was The Pink Tunic, where the model is still covered by a thin slip, this was followed by La Belle Rafaëla, a short-haired Venus in the dark secrets of the night, illuminated by a beam of Caravaggesque light covered with a passionately red cloth” (G. Mori, Tamara de Lempicka, The Queen of Modern (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 194). In his monograph on the artist, Patrick Bade refers to Lempicka’s depictions of Rafaëla as “amongst the most potently erotic works of Lempicka in which the desire of the artist for the soft and curvaceous body of the model is palpable” (P. Bade, op. cit., p. 59).
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Watch Live Sale