In Tamara de Lempicka I see a cautionary tale.
I’ve always maintained that if an artist’s goal is fame and fortune, that’s fine, but the more the work is “for” the audience, and caters to the audience and their perceived wants, the more diluted the message becomes. Compromises are made. The creative is giving something away–a part of themselves, part of their voice–in the hopes of gaining something in return.
Lempicka did exactly what she set out to do: become famous and wealthy. In that regard, she is a complete success. At some point, her identity as a socialite eclipsed her identity as an artist. When she realized this was happening, and saw the art world was leaving her behind, she tried to change course. Later works, portraits of the poor and attempts at abstraction, lacked conviction. She had tailored her art to appeal to the Right Class–the right kind of rich with the right kind of tastes–but the right kind are a fickle breed. Time passes, trends change. Her work was not evolving naturally as part of an artist’s journey, it was evolving to keep up, to remain relevant. The spark was gone.
Another socialite asked her daughter to invite Lempicka to a party, saying
She is such fun, and her pictures are so amusing.
If those ten words make you recoil as an artist, you know one thing for certain: you are not the compromising type.