À l’Opéra

Tamara de LempickaYear: (1898-1980)
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1941

oil on canvas

76.2 x 50.8 cm

signed and dated lower right: T. de Lempicka, 1941

Provenance

Barry Friedman Ltd., New York, 1979
Wolfgang Joop, 1980
Private collection, USA

Exhibitions

Tamara de Lempicka (Baroness de Kuffner), Julien Levy Galleries, New York, 1941, no. 18; San Francisco, Los Angeles, 1941, no. 7

Tamara de Lempicka (Baroness Kuffner), Milwaukee Art Center, 1942, no. 12

Tamara de Lempicka, Tokyo & Osaka, Seibu Gallery, 1981

Tamara de Lempicka, Tra Eleganza e Trasgressione, Rome, Accademia di Francia (Villa Medici), 1994, no. 53

Tamara de Lempicka, Art Deco Icon, London, The Royal Academy & Vienna, Kunstforum Wien, 2004-2005, no. 55

Tamara de Lempicka, Vigo, Fundación Caixa Galicia, 2006

Tamara de Lempicka, Milan, Palazzo Reale, 2006-2007, no. 51

Literature

G. Mandel, La Pittrice Tamara de Lempicka, Milan, 1957, p. 12, illustrated

G. Marmori, Tamara de Lempicka, Milan, 1978, p. 7

G. Bazin, H. Itsuki, Tamara de Lempicka, Tokyo, 1980, no. 89, illustrated in colour

W. Joop, Tamara de Lempicka, Träume von Mythen und Moden // Pan, Offenburg, May 1987, p. 17

K. de Lempicka-Foxhall, Ch. Phillips, Passion by Design: The Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka, New York, 1987, p. 140, illustrated

M. Calvesi, A. Borghese,Tamara de Lempicka, Tra Eleganza e Trasgressione, Milan, 1994, no. 53, illustrated in colour

A. Blondel, Tamara de Lempicka, Catalogue Raisonné, 1921-1979, Lausanne, 1999, no. B.222, p. 309, illustrated in colour

A. Blondel, I. Brugger, Tamara de Lempicka, Art Deco Icon, London, 2004, no. 55, illustrated in colour

G. Mori, Tamara de Lempicka, Milan, 2006, no. 51, illustrated in colour

In March 1939, Tamara de Lempicka arrived in New York, along with her latest paintings. Among these pieces was yet unfinished At the Opera, which she had started before leaving Europe. The painting is preceded by a study in pencil dated 1937, with significant differences compared with the final portrait. The painting was first presented in 1941 at the Julian Levy Galleries in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The exhibition announcement in the Los Angeles Examiner on 24 March 1941 contained a photo of Lempicka in her studio in Beverly Hills in front of this canvas. The painting’s more overtly visual elements, which in certain elements resemble the neo-Baroque, nevertheless render it a wonderful example of the Art Deco movement, of which Lempicka was the most prominent and influential woman.

The painting comes from the collection of German fashion designer Wolfgang Joop, one of the most passionate collectors of Lempicka’s work. The picture was particularly admired by Andy Warhol, who was the under-bidder at the sale in which Joop acquired the painting. ‘I whisked away the first picture, Dans l’Opera, from under Andy Warhol’s nose,’ later commented Joop. Among other works by Lempicka in Joop’s collection were portraits of the Duchesse de la Salle, Marjorie Ferry, Mademoiselle Poum Rachou, and Arlette Boucard aux Arums – the finest group of paintings ever to appear on market.

Lempicka claimed to have been born in Poland in 1902, though scholars now believe she was in fact born in Moscow, in 1895. Her wealthy family emigrated to Paris just prior to World War I, and it was here, surrounded surrounded by famous avant-garde artists , that she developed her unique style. Lempicka’s earliest influence was academic. She trained at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière under French painter Maurice Denis, who taught her the principles of Les Nabis: a group of Post-Impressionist artists who stressed the importance of graphic art and design within painting.

Characterised by bold compositions, theatrical lighting, decorative emphasis on pattern, and sensual modelling, Lempicka’s paintings are instantly recognisable. Best known for her striking portraits of glamorous women, Lempicka’s work captured the spirit of the Hollywood age, yet infused her paintings with Baroque and Renaissance techniques, a synthesis of tradition and contemporary attitudes.

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