Tamara de Limpicka (1898–1980) was a key artist in the Art Deco period of the 1920s and '30s. Born in Poland, she also spent a lot of time in France and the U.S. Her real fame came when high-fashion magazines began to use her art for their covers. Soon she was painting portraits of the aristocracy, and even royalty. Although her name is not well-known today outside of Art Deco fans, de Lempicka was one of the most important and popular artists of the Art Deco movement.
Art Deco grew out of Cubism and the Arts and Crafts movement, adding elements of "exotic" Asian, Egyptian and Mayan art. It used simple forms and planes of color to create new designs representing luxury and wealth. The pieces also represented faith in social and technological progress.
Art Deco architecture soars upward, with geometric designs on its walls and windows. Paintings and graphic designs use those same geometric lines to express the independence and industry that inspired the optimism of the early 20th century.
Tamara de Lempicka rode that wave of optimism in her paintings. She painted rich people in high-class settings, enjoying the fruits of progress. Many of her paintings included scenes of sensuality, with women in loose clothing or even nude. But these women were independent; they looked cool and detached, in no need of male support. This was revolutionary for her time. In her words, "My goal: never copy. Create a new style, with luminous and brilliant colors, rediscover the elegance of my models."