Tag Archives: Pompidou Center

An Art-Deco Lady in Green

Lempicka Green

Tamara de Lempicka painted this portrait, “Jeune Fille en Vert,” between 1927-1930. It’s part of the collection of the Pompidou Center in Paris.

The artist was born to Polish-Russian aristocrats in 1899.  Just before the Russian Revolution, she married a well-known lawyer/playboy. He was arrested during the Revolution.  She managed to rescue him from prison and they made their way to Paris, where their money soon ran out.  Tamara began painting as a way to support her family, which by this time included a daughter.

She developed a unique personal style perfectly suited to the Art Deco aesthetic of the Jazz Age.  Her paintings showed the influence of Picasso’s Cubism, combined with Italian Old Masters, which she had been exposed to when she lived with her wealthy grandmother as a teenager in Italy. Soon Tamara was in great demand, charging large fees to paint society figures and even the crowned heads of Europe.

She was wild and difficult, though.  She hobnobbed with the bohemian artist community in Paris, but at the same time conducted a frenetic social life in the highest social circles.  It seems she never really fit in with either group. Her first marriage did not last, and she neglected her only child.  She remarried and moved to the United States, where once again she was in demand for a time, painting portraits of movie stars and society figures.

Eventually, her work fell out of fashion and she retired from painting.  In the 1980s, her work was in demand again. Now, her paintings once more command high prices.


A recent biography by Laura Claridge sounds like a very entertaining account of this colorful woman’s life.  The title is “Tamara de Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence.” I’m hoping it will soon be available as an eBook. Right now, it seems to be only available in hardcover and paperback, from Amazon. A review is at http://www.nytimes.com/books/99/10/24/reviews/991024.24vincent.html

Join me next time for more explorations into the art and history of Europe!

Marguerite: Henri Matisse’s Feisty Daughter


This past April at the Pompidou Center in Paris, I was charmed by this portrait: “Marguerite au Chat Noir,” or “Margaret with Black Cat.”  The young lady was the daughter of Henri Matisse.  He painted this portrait in 1910 and exhibited it in Berlin at the Secession show, and subsequently at the Armory Show in New York City in 1913. The portrait was considered radical and bold in its time; it still is, no less than its model. The artist kept this particular painting in his own possession, and his family has kept it since his death in 1954.

Marguerite was the artist’s only daughter.  He portrayed her many times, no doubt thankful for every moment he spent with her.  At the age of 6, she nearly died of diptheria.  After that, she generally wore either high-necked clothing or a ribbon to cover the scar from the emergency tracheotomy during that illness.

Marguerite grew up to be a brave woman. In 1945, she was arrested and tortured by the Gestapo for her activities in the French Resistance.  She somehow escaped from the train taking her to a concentration camp.  She died in 1982, at age 87.

I wish I could have seen a show in Baltimore last fall, “Matisse’s Marguerite: Model Daughter,” at the Baltimore Museum of Art.  A description of that show, by Tim Smith, is at touch.baltimoresun.com.

Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!