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Royal Academy of Arts

Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2004

Art Deco diva earns vogue status with rare exhibition

She was renowned as the diva of Art Deco and led the same glamorous lifestyle as the high society figures she painted. Yet Tamara de Lempicka was excluded from the artistic establishment because she was "a beautiful and emancipated woman", according to Norman Rosenthal, the exhibitions secretary at the Royal Academy of Arts.

The Royal Academy of Arts stagged the first major exhibition of De Lempicka's work, featuring 55 paintings borrowed from galleries and private collectors. Among them are works belonging to the actor Jack Nicholson, and the designers Donna Karan and Wolfgang Joop. 

Mr. Rosenthal said: "She was not in the great canon of the 20th century because she was a woman and because she was incredibly beautiful. She looked and lived like Greta Garbo, and I think those things counted against her. She was overlooked in the same way someone like Frieda Kahlo was. I hope this exhibition serves to recognize just what a great artist she was and that there is a place for her in the history of 20th-century art."

De Lempicka's work came to epitomize the wealth and decadence of Paris in the 1920s and 30s. As a white Russian whose family fled the revolution and left behind their riches, De Lempicka was among the first generation of "self-made" women and became known for her portraits of strong, sexually empowered women. Her paintings include boldly drawn nudes, lesbian friends, breast-feeding mothers and portraits of Europe's social elite.

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"The Indepentend" by Arifa Akbar

The exhibition "Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon" ran from May 15th  2004 to August 30th 2004.