Tamara De Lempicka (1898-1980)
Tamara De Lempicka (1898-1980)

Un port sous la lune

Tamara De Lempicka (1898-1980)
Un port sous la lune
signed 'T. DE LEMPICKA.' (upper left)
oil on canvas
18 3/8 x 15 1/8 in. (46.5 x 38.4 cm.)
Painted circa 1924
M. Surdik (acquired from the artist, 1930).
Barry Friedman, Ltd., New York (1988).
Private collection, Germany (1990).
Salis & Vertes, Salzburg.
Private collection, Germany.
Acquired by the present owner, 2009.
A. Blondel, Tamara de Lempicka, Catalogue raisonné, Lausanne, 1999, p. 113, no. B.41 (illustrated in color).
Lempicka, The Artist, The Woman, The Legend, exh. cat., Musée des Année 30, Boulogne-Billancourt, 2006.
G. Mori, Tamara de Lempicka, The Queen of Modern, exh. cat., Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, 2011, p. 142.
Mexico, Museo Nacional de Arte, Tamara de Lempicka, 1989.
Pinacothèque de Paris, Tamara de Lempicka, la Reine de l'Art déco, April-September 2013, pp. 113 and 223, no. 15 (illustrated in color, p. 114).

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David Kleiweg de Zwaan
David Kleiweg de Zwaan

Lot Essay

Lempicka began to publicly exhibit her paintings in the Salon d'Automne and Salon des Tuileries in 1922. She took advantage of the growing interest in women who were entering the arts following the First World War, and she strongly believed that she stood out among them. She later wrote, "I was the first woman who did clear painting—and that was the success of my painting. Among a hundred paintings, you could recognize mine. And the galleries began to put me in the best rooms, always in the center, because my painting attracted people. It was neat, it was finished" (quoted in K. de Lempicka-Foxhall, Passion by Design: the Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka, New York, 1987, p. 53).
Lempicka's teachers were Maurice Denis, the Nabi painter who turned to the Italian quattrocento for inspiration in the early years of the twentieth century, and André Lhote, the cubist who followed the "call to order" following the First World War and worked within the ethos of the new classicism. Lempicka learned from Denis the value of precise draftsmanship and like him acquired an affinity for the Italian primitives, whose work she studied during a student trip to Italy in 1920, and an extended stay there in 1925. She took from Lhote the principle of the "plastic metaphor," in which the shapes and volumes of the human figure were based on an underlying foundation of abstract, geometric forms. This principle enabled her to successfully integrate the late vocabulary of postwar cubism with the tenor of contemporary life during the freewheeling 1920s.
Un port sous la lune, painted in 1924, demonstrates Lempicka’s interest in cubism—presenting a port scene at night, seemingly viewed through a window, on which a toy bird and hammer rest on the window sill. The arching green leaves of a palm tree on the left side of the work seem to place the location somewhere in the south of France where Lempicka may have been vacationing. Here we witness the intersection of commerce and leisure, seen through the juxtaposition of the large ocean liner and the angular white sails of a sailboat that passes in front of it. In the distance, the geometric forms of a city are set against a mosaic of shapes and colors which form the sky and ocean. Alain Blondel notes the connection to surrealism and the present paintings relationship to another work—L’oiseau rouge, 1924 (Blondel, no. B.40)—which features the same hammer and toy bird.
Lempicka often used the skyline as the background for her paintings but the present work is one of the few early paintings that presents the city as the primary subject. After her visit to New York in 1929, the Manhattan skyline became the dominant backdrop for her portraits—even those done in Paris—allowing her to give her sitters an “air of modernity and urban sophistication” (P. Bade, Lempicka, New York, 2006, p. 79).

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