Tamara de Lempicka (1898 – 1980), La dormeuse (Kizette). Photo Sotheby's.

Signed T. DE LEMPICKA (on the reverse). Oil on panel; 12 1/4 by 16 1/8 in., 31 by 41 cm. Painted in 1933. Estimation 2,500,000 — 3,500,000 USD 

Provenance: Private Collection, United States (1972)
Sold: Christie’s, New York, May 11, 1994, lot 308
Acquired at the above sale

ExpositionParis, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Tamara de Lempicka,1935
Paris, Galerie Ror-Volmar, T. de Lempicka, oeuvres récentes et anciennes, 1930-1960, 1961
Paris, Galerie du Luxembourg, Tamara de Lempicka de 1925 à 1935, 1972
Tokyo & Hiroshima, Hiroshima Museum of Arts, Tamara de Lempicka, 1997

Litterature: B. Bernard, “Tamara’s Word,” The London Times, The Sunday Times Magazine, Aug. 22, 1976, pp. 18-23, illustrated, p. 20
G. Marmori, Tamara de Lempicka, Parma, 1977, p. illustrated p. 125
G. Bazin, Tamara de Lempicka 1920-1960, Tokyo, 1980, no. 64, illustrated in color
Kizette de Lempicka-Foxhall, Passion by Design, New York, 1987, illustrated p. 115
Alain Blondel, Tamara de Lempicka, catalogue raisonné, 1921-1979, Lausanne, 1999, no. B. 136, illustrated in color p. 223
Camilla de la Bédoyère, Art Deco, London, 2005, illustrated in color on the cover

Sexy, bold and ultra-stylized, La Dormeuse is a highly charged depiction of a femme fatale in repose.  Lempicka was born in Poland and lived in St. Petersburg in her youth. In 1918 she came to Paris and spent the rest of her life cultivating a glamorous international persona. She began exhibiting her work in the Paris salons in 1922, and through her exposure to avant-garde art, she derived a distinct style of painting that was unlike most of her male contemporaries. Impressed by the Cubists and their deconstruction of form, she applied similar techniques in her paintings. Although loosely tied to the geometric aesthetic of Cubism and the proportionality of neo-Classicism, Lempicka’s painting, characterized by its razor-sharp draughtsmanship, theatrical lighting and sensual modeling, was unlike that of any artist of her day. Her most striking depictions of women, including the tantalizing La Dormeuse, have come to personify the age of Art Deco. 

The subject of the sleeping woman was filled with erotic potential, as Picasso would so readily acknowledge in his sumptuous portraits of Marie-Thérèse in 1932. Lempicka’s image is perhaps one of the most intimate and unabashedly sensual renderings of this theme. In La Dormeuse, the figure’s flesh is rendered with imperceptible brushstrokes. Her skin appears to be incandescent as if she is bathed in silver moonlight, and her hair glows with a metallic sheen. Lempicka was receptive to the influence of her colleagues in Weimar Germany, and she readily incorporated the hyper-realism of Neue Sachlichkeit into her own work. But it was her love of the precision and classicism of the Italian Renaissance that had the most profound impact on her compositions. Lempicka frequently acknowledged her indebtedness to the Italian Old Masters and how their style profoundly impacted her art: "I discovered Italy when I was a youngster and my grandmother took me away from the cold climate of Poland, where I was born and lived, to take me to the sunny cities of Florence, Rome, Naples, Venice and Milan. It was under her attentive guidance that my eyes took in the treasures of the Italian old masters, from the Quattrocento, the Renaissance" (quoted in Alain Blondel, op. cit., p. 22).

While much has been written about Lempicka’s reverence for the old masters, equally important to her as an artist were the aesthetic forces of her era, the most influential of which was the American film industry. Lempicka was enthralled with the mystique of Hollywood, eventually moving there in the 1940s with her second husband, Baron Kuffner. She invited film crews to her studio in Paris, where she staged grand entrances and posed for pictures with all the theatricality and panache of a silent film star. One often repeated anecdote is that Lempicka was thrilled to be mistaken once for the film actress Greta Garbo. The artist was enamored by this type of modern glamour, and the models in her portraits often resemble film icons from the early days of Hollywood. This platinum bombshell, depicted with brightly colored lips and nails, calls to mind the passively seductive poses of such 1930s silver-screen legends as Garbo and Jean Harlow.  The model for this picture was the artist's teenage daughter Kizette, whom the artist featured in several compositions in the 1920s.  

As Patrick Bade explained in his monograph on the artist, "There is no doubt that de Lempicka herself was profoundly influenced by the burgeoning art form of the cinema. In the 1920s as she formed her style, the great Hollywood studios of M.G.M., Paramount, Columbia, Universal and R.K.O. began what has been termed the gold age of Hollywood and their domination of world entertainment. The French and German film industries also enjoyed a golden age of creativity, turning out many of the twentieth century’s finest films in these years. The ubiquity of movies began to influence the way people looked and behaved. De Lempicka’s female subjects with their heavy makeup, perfectly coiffed hair and their theatrical poses and facial expressions full of artificial pathos could have stepped out of the silver screen” (P. Bade, Tamara de Lempicka, New York, 2006, p. 92). 

Sotheby's. Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, New York | 07 mai 2014 - http://www.sothebys.com/