Tamara de Lempicka was born in 1898 in Warsaw, Poland. After her mother and father divorced, her wealthy grandmother spoiled her with clothes and travel. By age 14 she was attending school in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Soon after Russia and Germany declared war in 1914, she fell in love with the most handsome bachelor in Warsaw, a lawyer named Taduesz Lempicki. She set her sights on him and two years later they were married in fashionable St. Petersburg.
A year later, Taduesz was arrested by the Bolsheviks, and Tamara braved the Russian Revolution to free him, using her good looks to charm favours from the necessary officials. The couple fled to Paris and Tamara De Lempicka studied art and worked day and night. She became a well-known portrait painter with a distinctive Art Deco manner.
Between the wars, she painted portraits of writers, entertainers, artists, scientists, industrialists, and many of Eastern Europe’s exiled nobility. Famous for her libido, she was bisexual, and her affairs with both men and women were carried out in ways that were scandalous at the time. Her husband eventually tired of their arrangement and abandoned her in 1927. They were divorced in 1931 in Paris. At the threat of a second World War, she left Paris for America. She went to Hollywood, to become the “Favourite Artist of the Hollywood Stars”. She and her second husband, Baron Raoul Kuffner, moved to New York City in 1943.
After the Baron’s death in 1962, she moved to Houston to be near her daughter Kizette. She began painting with a palette knife, much in vogue at the time. In 1966, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs mounted a commemorative exhibition in Paris called “Les Annees ’25”. Its success created the first serious interest in Art Deco and Lempicka was rediscovered by the art world.
In 1978 she moved to Mexico permanently. She despaired of growing old and in her last years sought the company of young people. She mourned at the loss of her beauty and was cantankerous to the end. Tamara De Lempicka died in her sleep on March 18, 1980. Her wish to be cremated and have her ashes spread in Mexico, on the top of the volcano Popocatepetl was carried out.