I am a sucker for a lot of different things. I love the expressionists, the cubists, the surrealists, art deco, art nouveau, impressionism. Goodness, I guess I like almost everybody except whoever is creating art right now. It is probably cliche to notice how common it is to look backward and admire everything only to look around you and be disgusted. I suspect that says more about our personal sense of satisfaction and fulfilment than it does about the art we presume to judge, but maybe not.
Here is an artist who is easy to like and easy to write about. What a life! Hers is the kind of flawed and debauched brilliance that novelists try and fail to capture. There isn’t nearly room enough in this blog to cover a tenth of her wise, cold, and scandalous nature so instead I encourage you to look her up.
What I do want to think about is how modern these pictures appear; for all their Art Deco feel they seem designed by computer. It is quite a startling effect. The other amazing thing is how thoroughly flattering her paintings are. It must have been wonderful and terrible to have her paint your portrait, knowing you could never live up to it but aching, all the same, to see yourself grandly romanticized.
de Limpica was beautiful, talented and smart. She foresaw and planned against the coming Nazi horrors long before most, and I think she took a cold and calculated approach to her painting as well. She decided early on that to really make money as a fine artist it was best to concentrate on portraits. Be as aristocratic as you like, but you still need to keep the lights on and nobody is better at funding the lights than the vain, successful, and rich.
She works as an object lesson for artists who whine about having to sell out to get ahead. If you are familiar with art, and you come across one of her canvases anywhere under any conditions, chances are you will say, “Ah, that’s Tamara de Limpicka, or at least, that’s her style.” Her style. No one else’s.
That’s not selling out; that’s writing your name across the sky.