Paintings You Should Know: Tamara de Lempicka’s ‘Young Girl in Green’

Just as Mary Cassatt portrayed the ideal ‘New Woman’ of the 19th Century, Tamara de Lempicka captured in Art Deco brilliance the Bright Young Things of the Roaring Twenties, and ‘Young Girl in Green’ (1929), also known as ‘Girl in Green with Gloves’ or ‘Young Girl With Gloves’, is one of her most famous paintings.

de Lempicka girl in green
Tamara de Lempicka, ‘Young Girl in Green’, 1929.

Painted in oil on plywood, it measures 45.5cm by 61.5cm and is currently held by the Musée national d’art modern in Paris. It is painted in the Art Deco style, which was heavily influenced by Cubism. The distinct angularity of the style did not prevent De Lempicka from capturing a sense that the fabric in the dress was moving in the breeze, or conveying the subtle eroticism of her subject’s curves, including the outline of her nipples, bellybutton, and upper thigh.

Tamara in a green Bugatti
‘Tamara in a Green Bugatti’, self-portrait by Tamara de Lempicka, 1925.

Born Maria Górska in 1898 to a wealthy Polish family, Tamara appears to have been determined from an early age to determine the course of her own life. She was married twice, the first time at the age of 18 and the second time, following her divorce from her first husband, to a Baron who had commissioned her to paint his mistress. She had one child, a daughter named Kizette, by her first husband, and while she frequently painted her she could hardly be described as a devoted mother – Kizette spent much of her childhood being raised by her grandmother. De Lempicka was openly bisexual and had a number of female lovers. In other words, she lived the quintessential Bohemian life, first in Paris and later in America, and was a popular portrait painter with the ‘It’ crowd of the time. She remains best-known for her portraits of strong, independent women. Tamara de Lempicka died in Mexico in 1980.

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