Friday, January 09, 2009

Arty-Farty Friday ~ Tamara de Lempicka

Tamara de Lempicka was an artist and celebrity of the Art Deco era, the 1920s and 30s, well-known for her wild and decadent lifestyle. Reviewing a biography of Lempicka by Laura Claridge "A Life of Deco and Decadence" writer Glyn Vincent reveals that
"In the Paris salon of the poet Natalie Barney, she sniffed cocaine and drank sloe gin fizzes laced with hashish among the likes of Andre Gide. On the banks of the Seine, she picked up sailors and female prostitutes.
After her nocturnal debauches, she painted until dawn. Her life style (and her "affair" with the Italian poet Gabriele D'Annunzio) sent her first husband, Tadeusz Lempicki, packing into the arms of a plump heiress."

"Lempicka's success allowed her to mingle with avant-gardists like Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali and Filippo Marinetti, but she remained disengaged from the progressive, leftist artistic climate of her time. Aloof and wild, she was fundamentally anti-intellectual. At home, too, she remained at sea. An absent wife, she used her artistic life to excuse her infidelities. A rigid perfectionist, she abused her daughter, Kizette.
After her first marriage fell apart she suffered from
severe bouts of depression that were to plague her for the rest of her life."

She is quoted as saying: "I live life in the margins of society, and the rules of normal society don't apply to those who live on the fringe."

Tamara de Lempicka was born into a wealthy Polish family, married a Russian lawyer after moving to live with an aunt in Russia. The couple fled from the Bolsheviks to Paris where her reputation as a sought-after portrait painter was established.
She had beauty and poise, described as rather aloof and Garbo-esque, but gathered a colorful reputation on the French social scene after several love affairs - with both sexes. When World War 2 seemed inevitable she moved to the USA with her second husband, a wealthy baron. Her popularity declined slowly after the war, before enjoying a renaissance in the 1970s.

As an artist Lempicka flirted with cubism and eventually settled on her own version of it, which some sources have called "soft cubism". She was, in the main, a
portrait painter, to the rich and famous. Her highly stylized portraits are immediately recognisable as hers - though whether they resemble the sitters, I can't say.

Astrology here is tricky, for it's said that the lady frequently lied about her age as well as her place of birth, for reasons of vanity or safety, perhaps both at different times. She was born in either Warsaw or Moscow on 16 May (the day and month seem fixed) in either 1898 (as she preferred it known) or 1896 or even 1895. I'll take Warsaw as her place of birth, as her parents were from well to do Polish families. She went to live with her aunt in Russia sometime in late childhood.

Natal Sun was at 25 degrees of Taurus whatever the year of birth, so is conjunct Fixed Star Algol, the star with the most malefic reputation of all. When researching for a piece about Algol I found that modern astrologers have sought to attach a less drastic meaning to this Fixed Star. Some connect it to energies of "the feminine" (presumably a link to Medusa's powers), others prefer a much diluted version of the traditional interpretation. The latter group surmises that anyone with Algol conjunct natal Sun or other personal planet is likely to be intense, perhaps prone to violence if provoked, and passionate in all enterprises (similar to Scorpio traits).
(See my post here) .

Pluto and Neptune remained in Gemini in 1895 to 1898, but the personal planet close to them in Lempicka's chart changes : Mercury in 1895 or 1896 ; Venus, between the two outer planets in 1898. That's not sufficient to be able to pinpoint which year is most likely her true birth year.

In the 1895 chart there's a Cancer stellium including Venus/Jupiter/Mars which doesn't fit her personality as described in her biography. She seems to have been a less than Cancerian motherly mother, and a less than sensitive character all round, with no hint of Cancerian shyness. The 1896 chart though has Moon in Cancer, so the sign is difficult to discount. Perhaps her reputation for aloofness links to Cancer.

In the 1896 chart Venus was in Taurus, with the Sun, Taurus is ruled by Venus planet of the arts, which is appropriate for her. The 1898 chart is reasonable too, but if she was inclined to lie about her age, as is suggested, then the 1896 would be the better bet.

It's a mystery, and a pity that her birth data is so unclear. She'd have been a fascinating character to investigate. The only definite factor I can pull out of what's available is the Sun/Algol conjunction, which is interesting in itself.


More detail on Tamara de Limpicka at


R J Adams said...

Truly a fascinating woman. Some years ago, I was fortunate to visit Il Vittoriale, the stunningly beautiful, and somewhat notorious, home of D'Annunzio in Gardoni, overlooking Italy's Lake Garda.
Lempicka stayed there three months with the poet, ostensibly to paint his portrait, but apparently never did.
She is considered by many to have been his mistress at this time, but others are equally emphatic she spurned his advances.
Frankly, I find the latter unlikely. D'Annunzio was hardly a man to condone a female house guest remaining so long without succumbing to his advances.
Your article revived some wonderful memories of Italy.

Anonymous said...

I truly enjoy your artist profiles. Wonderful

Twilight said...

RJ ~~ Hmmm - interesting! She did a portrait of Grand Duke Gabriel, which I believe is D'Annunzio

Not sure if this link will work

If not Google will probably drop you off there via "Grand Duke Gabriel by Lempicka".

He looks a right old!

Twilight said...

Anonymous ~~ Thank you kindly - I'm glad it's of interest. :-)

Wisewebwoman said...

Marvellous stuff, T. I love these obscure artists you dredge up, I love her work some of it androgynous it looks like.
Off Topic: it crossed my mind the other day to ask you about Janis Joplin, have you ever done a post on her?

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ I like her style of painting too, and the Art Deco feel - I love both Art Nouveau and Art Deco, and lots of writers from both periods too

Janis Joplin? Ooo-er, I'm always almost ashamed to say I just didn't really "get" her, so haven't been drawn to write about her. I did see her interviewed via an old VCR tape we have, and she seemed quite personable - different from her on-stage persona which I didn't much like.

Alex Trenoweth, who also writes an astrology blog now did a piece on Janis in 2005 which you might find interesting "Trading Her Tomorrows"

Twilight said...

try link again!

Twilight said...

The link needs html at the end - silly old Blogger!

Wisewebwoman said...

Thanks, T. I just adored her, she was everything I wished to be but didn't have the guts (without the drugs, natch!).

R J Adams said...

T - the painting in question was not of D'Annunzio, but Grand Duke Gabriel Constantinovitch. He was the son of the Duchess of Saxony, the great grandson of Czar Nicholas I, and lived from 1887 - 1955. D'Annunzio was thirty-five years older than Lempicka, and their association occurred around the mid-1920's. He would have been about sixty years of age at the time. The painting is of a much younger man. I believe Grand Duke Gabriel was involved with the arts. He also spent much time in Paris, so its likely Lempicka would know him - even if he were not one of her many lovers.

Twilight said...

RJ ~~~ Oh! Thanks for that additional information. Well - she certainly moved in the best of circles! :-) said...

Ow, thank you for that wonderful biography, it definitely changes the way you look at Tamara.

Twilight said...
~~~~ Hi! Yes, she was quite a gal it seems! :-)