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Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980)
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Property Formerly in a European Museum
Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980)

La Musicienne

Details
Tamara de Lempicka (1898-1980)
La Musicienne
signed, dated and inscribed 'DE LEMPICKA. 29 PARIS.' (lower right)
oil on canvas
45 5/8 x 28 ¾ in. (115.8 x 73 cm.)
Painted in Paris, 1929
Provenance
Galerie du Luxembourg, Paris (by 1972).
Private collection.
Barry Friedman, Ltd., New York (acquired from the above).
Andrew Crispo Gallery, New York (acquired from the above, circa 1979-1980); sale, Sotheby’s, New York, 8 May 2002, lot 31.
Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, Spanbroek (acquired from the above); stolen from the Scheringa Museum of Realist Art, 1 May 2009; recovered and returned to the insurance company in July 2016.
Literature
T. de Lempicka, Annotated photo album, Lempicka Archives, Houston, 1923-1933, no. 93
L'Art Vivant, Paris, 1930, p. 466.
Mobilier et Décoration, Paris, 1930.
Die Dame, Berlin, April 1930 (illustrated in color on the cover).
F. Vallon, "Chez Tamara de Lempicka" in La Revue de Médecin, May 1930, p. 33 (illustrated).
Marseilles Soir, May 1933 (illustrated).
W. Sauré, "Tamara de Lempicka stellt in Paris aus" in Die Weltkunst, 1 September 1972, vol. XLII, no. 17, p. 1190 (illustrated).
“L’éternel feminin” in Nouvelles Littéraires, June-July 1972.
Revista de Arte, November-December 1972, p. 177.
G. Marmoni, Tamara de Lempicka, Milan, 1977, p. 88 (illustrated in color, p. 89).
G. Marmoni, Tamara de Lempicka: Les oeuvres majeures de Tamara de Lempicka, Florence, 1978, p. 75 (illustrated in color, p. 64).
T. Masuda, E. Ishioka, Tamara de Lempicka, Tokyo, 1980 (illustrated in color, pl. 34).
F. Gilot, "Tamara" in Arts and Antiques, 1986, p. 67 (illustrated).
G. Nèret, Tamara de Lempicka, Cologne, 1992, p. 29 (illustrated in color; titled Lady in Blue with Guitar).
V. Arwas, Art Deco, New York, 1992, p. 2 (illustrated in color).
E. Thormann, Tamara de Lempicka, Kunstkritik und Künstlerinnen in Paris, Berlin, 1993, p. 220, no. 54 (illustrated, no. 44; titled La Musicienne or Femme bleue à la guitare or Portrait Iraperrod or Die Lauterspielerin).
R. Barbolini, "Vate, io dipingo non vengo a letto" in Panorama, 28 January 1994 (illustrated).
G. Mori, Tamara de Lempicka, Parigi 1920-1938, Florence, 1994, pp. 79, 161 and 225, no. 62 (illustrated in color, p. 161; titled Femme bleue à la guitare ou La musicienne).
A. Blondel, Tamara de Lempicka: Catalogue raisonné, 1921-1979, Lausanne, 1999, p. 200, no. B.117 (illustrated in color).
L. Claridge, Tamara: A Life of Deco and Decadence, New York, 1999, pp. 339-340.
E. Ansenk, Schilder van een andere Werkelijkheid in de Collectie van het Scheringa Museum voor Realisme, Zwolle, 2006, p. 82 (illustrated in color, p. 83; detail illustrated in color on the cover).
P. Bade, Tamara de Lempicka, New York, 2006, p. 70 (illustrated in color, p. 71).
Exhibited
Paris, Grand Palais des Champs-Elysées, 41me exposition: société des artistes indépendants, January-March 1930, no. 2544, (titled Portrait de Mme Ira Perrot).
Paris, Galerie Colette Weill, 1930.
Marseilles, Les modernistes, 1933.
New York, Julien Levy Gallery, Tamara de Lempicka, (Baroness de Kuffner), April 1941, no. 19 (titled Femme avec guitarre and dated 1928).
Paris, Galerie Rol-Volmar, T. de Lempicka, oeuvres récentes et anciennes, 1930-1960, 1961.
Paris, Galerie du Luxembourg, Tamara de Lempicka de 1925-1935, June-July 1972, p. 13, no. 34 (illustrated in color on the cover).
Tokyo, Seibu Department Store and Osaka, Galerie Parco View, Tamara de Lempicka, 1980, no. 34 (illustrated; titled Femme bleue à la guitare).
New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, A Selection of European and American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, 1983 (titled Femme bleue à la guitare).
New York, Barry Friedman, Ltd., Tamara de Lempicka, 1983 (titled Femme bleue à la guitare).
New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, The 19th and 20th Centuries: Paintings by American and European Masters, 1984 (titled Femme bleue à la guitare).
New York, Andrew Crispo Gallery, Paris and New York 1925-1935: Art and Design, 1985 (titled Femme bleue à la guitare).
Washington, D.C., National Museum of Women in the Arts, Voices of Freedom: Polish Women Artists and The Avant-Garde, 1880-1990, 1991-1992, pp. 26 and 42 (illustrated in color; titled Femme bleue à la guitare).
Washington, D.C., National Museum of Women in the Arts (on extended loan 1992-1993).
Rome, Accademia di Francia Villa Medici and Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Tamara de Lempicka: Tra eleganza e trasgressione, February-October 1994, pp. 69 and 102, no. 28 (illustrated in color, p. 69; illustrated again, p. 102; titled Femme bleue à la guitare).
New York, Barry Friedman, Ltd., Tamara de Lempicka, October-November 1996 (illustrated in color).
London, Royal Academy of Arts and Vienna, Kunstforum, Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon, May 2004-January 2005, p. 97, no. 31 (illustrated in color; detail illustrated in color, p. 5).

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Max Carter
Max Carter

Lot Essay

A visitor to the 41st exhibition of the Société des Artistes Indépendants during the early months of 1930 would surely have paused therein to examine La Musicienne, a stylish, modern portrait of a remarkably beautiful young woman, who, in a time-honored tradition of European painting, also represented an idea in the abstract—she is an allegory of music. The painter was in 1930 a rising star whose work was not to be missed. Polish-born Tamara de Lempicka was nearing the very height of her newly attained fame in Paris, and had begun to forge an international, trans-Atlantic reputation as well. She had become, among wealthy Europeans and Americans, one of the most sought-after portraitists at that time. The international range of her clientele may have been even more extensive than that of Kees van Dongen, who, working in a different style, was perhaps her chief rival for European commissions, but had relatively few American connections.
In addition to having emerged as a painter of note, Lempicka was widely celebrated as a glamorous hostess and party-goer. The professional and social aspects of Lempicka’s life were inextricably intertwined; one sphere of activity was indispensable to the success of the other. All of these qualities enhanced and sustained her reputation as the leading female artist of her day. She was au courant in many respects. She and husband Tadeusz Lempicki each pursued extra-marital relationships, Tamara with partners of both sexes. Lempicka’s liberal, metropolitan outlook enabled her to create her own independent and personally fulfilling life-style, in all matters public and private, still a relatively rare achievement for a woman at that time.
The subject of this painting, as indeed was the case with Lempicka herself, immediately evokes a distant antecedent whose life and art she might well have known and appreciated. Artemisia Gentileschi (1593-1653) was the first woman in the history of European art to forge a successful career from her painting, notwithstanding experiences of sexual abuse and frequent disparagement from her male peers, while gaining the patronage of Cosimo II de’Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and King Charles I of England. Cosimo II is believed to have commissioned the portrait in which Gentileschi, attired in blue, depicts herself playing the lute, an instrument often featured in Renaissance and Baroque painting, but in a man’s hands.
Lempicka did not cast herself as the subject in La Musicienne, who plays a lute-like modern mandolin. She chose instead for this role her closest female friend, confidante, and lover, Ira Perrot, also a married woman. Graced with hazel eyes, a thin oval face, raven hair with reddish tints, and shapely scarlet lips, Perrot appeared more frequently than any other sitter in Lempicka’s paintings during the ten-year period ending in 1932. Lempicka first painted her wearing a blue dress in a canvas she exhibited at the 1922 Salon d’Automne (Blondel, no. B.7). The artist featured her friend in the two versions of La chemise rose, executed in 1927 and 1928 (B.93 and 105). Mme Perrot also appears as the tenderly sensual, nursing mother in Maternité, 1928 (B.106), and again, most languorously, as La Convalescente, 1932 (B.160).
“Tamara spoke almost worshipfully of Perrot’s lithe figure and beautiful full breasts,” a mutual acquaintance recalled (quoted in L. Claridge, op. cit., 1999, p. 121). A viewer may also admire her features in some of the artist’s paintings of nudes, such as the reclining figure at lower right in Femmes au bain, 1929 (B.120). Ira Perrot is the subject of one of Lempicka’s most impressively elaborate and best-known large portraits, Portrait de Ira P., 1930 (B.143). A few years later, however, Lempicka and Ira Perrot became estranged, and never again saw each other.
Lempicka had been working since the late 1920s in her fully realized signature style, which informs every aspect of La Musicienne. Combining elements drawn from French cubism, purism and neo-classicism, as well as her own study in Italy of Renaissance masters, and showing her awareness of contemporary realist trends in Germany—such as manifest in the paintings of Christian Schad—Lempicka forged her own boldly cosmopolitan, classical figure style. She moreover drew timely, fashionable inspiration from J.-A.-D. Ingres, the paragon of 19th-century French classicism, whose example also served as a springboard for Picasso’s dominant style during the early 1920s.
By 1930 Lempicka developed the consummate pictorial manner that aptly characterized the liberated assertiveness and unrestrained extravagance then fueling the Parisian postwar années folles, the Americans’ Jazz Age. Her paintings were aggressively modern-looking, but in marked contrast to the German realist and Neue Sachlichkeit artists, she always idealized her subjects. The appeal of her work to the social elites of the day—the traditional aristocracy and especially the swelling ranks of the nouveau riche—was due in large part to its proud and glowing sensuality. Lempicka’s cool and urbane vision of physical beauty was emblematic of purposeful self-confidence, personal empowerment and worldly success, and irresistibly mirrored the aspirations of these well-heeled and influential classes. The direct expression of a freer sense of female sexuality—voluptuous, passionate, but still within the bounds of acceptable taste, moreover painted by a woman—further enhanced the desirability of her pictures.
The growing number of women who began showing their art following the First World War attracted a good deal of attention. Lempicka proudly believed that she stood out among them. “I was the first woman who did clear painting–and that was the success of my painting,” she later wrote. “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, New York, 1987, p. 53).
Having commenced work on La Musicienne in mid-1929, Lempicka brought the canvas to near completion before she departed in early October for her first stay in America. The young heir to millions, Rufus T. Bush, during a recent trip to Paris had commissioned the artist to paint a portrait of his new wife Joan. Nine days after Lempicka landed in New York, the stock market crashed; she had unfortunately deposited a substantial sum in a bank which promptly failed. The Bush portrait (Blondel, no. B.126) and other commissions she attracted while in New York helped to cover her losses. Lempicka, through her considerable talent and resources as a businesswoman, was adroit at landing on her feet in situations that might have set back or even wiped out other artists.
Lempicka returned to Paris in early 1930, excited about her visit to New York, and as yet unfazed by the signs of a growing world-wide economic crisis that was already having an impact in the French capital. Her first task was to complete La Musicienne, which she wanted to show, together with the sultry portrait Nana de Herrera, 1928-1929 (Blondel, no. B.113), at the Salon des Indépendants, scheduled to open on 17 January. Along the upper edge of the canvas, behind Ira Perrot’s head, the artist painted in a skyline of Manhattan skyscrapers, seamlessly integrating the elements of figure-painting, still life, classical drapery, and modern urban architecture, into a consistently stylized composition rendered as if in molded and polished polychrome steel. Her conception spans the centuries, from Renaissance allegory to futurist design.
La Musicienne became a centerpiece in her solo exhibition at the Galerie Colette Weil in May 1930. The painting had already adorned the cover of the April issue of the Berlin magazine Die Dame. Having made her first million by the age of 28—so Lempicka could boast—and now in her early thirties, she was confident that she could provide as sole breadwinner for her daughter Kizette and mother, and to maintain her expensive Art Deco residence and studio at 7, rue Méchain, even after divorcing Tadeusz in 1931. She displayed paintings at gatherings in her home, which she also made her studio. Her clients enjoyed being regaled in such fashionably modern surroundings as they sat for their portraits, a privilege for which they gladly paid the artist’s fee.
Lempicka’s recent paintings met with wide critical acclaim. “In her paintings everything is caressed with love and a meticulous brush,” one reviewer wrote. “At the same time she shows a skillful, confident conception and a taste for pure line and simple shapes. Her drawing is clear and sharp; her painting smooth with extreme skill and mastering of craft. Her paintings remind us of the classics in museums but with infinitely more seduction and sensitivity. This is not realistic painting: she could be called realistic only if the term were enlarged. Her art is not cold despite its precision. Her portraits are alive and even hallucinatory” (quoted in L. Claridge, op. cit., 1999, pp. 174-175).

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