Tamara de Limpica

Self Portrait in the Green Bugatti

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.

Portrait of the Marquis d’Afflito, 1925

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.

Portrait of Mrs. Allan Bott, 1930

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.

Portrait of Doctor Boucard, 1928

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.

Girl with the Green Gloves, 1930

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12 Responses to Tamara de Limpica

  1. Oh, great post. I’ve always been a fan of her art but didn’t know much about her personal life – looks like a good read! 🙂

  2. Pat Snyder says:

    Love these. It would be sort of an endless smile to live among them. She makes me think of Dean Martin’s act – you know there is something scandalous there inside all that sophistication and you love it.

    • foxpudding says:

      She was plenty scandalous, all right. Somewhat sad toward the end. I had not realized she was so admired and tied up with the Randians. That’s how some of her work came to be used as covers for Ayn Rand’s books.

  3. Pretty damn fascinating, as always. I just received that book you recommended about Gordon Conway. Thank you!

  4. Jill says:

    I learn more about art here than I ever did in Art History. Which was really more about nap time.

    • foxpudding says:

      That’s very kind. I just enjoy sharing about these folks. As I said above, I missed a bet on her Randian following, but I didn’t know that Paul Ryan was going to run for VP. Oh well.

  5. Jill says:

    I recognized her from a cover of a Rand novel, I just never investigated her further. I love the portraits of the women, they are kind of renaissance-e with the fleshi-ness yet hard angles too. (Remember I slept through most of Art History so forgive the weird terminology. ) I’ve got Conway on my wishlist now Limpica.

  6. What a delight to come upon your Blog! As a retired fine art dealer, who lost her retirement and tax dollars along with everyone else, it was a gift to see this art again. Though I never had the priviledge of working with de Limpica’s paintings, I specialized in Contemporary Soviet Block Artist, with Okshteyn and Tselkov coming to mind immediately. Brings back lovely and positive memories. Thank you!

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