Self-Portrait in the Green Bugatti

Self-Portrait in the Green Bugatti is also known as Autoportrait or Tamara in a Green Bugatti. It’s an oil on panel painting, and as the name suggests, this is a self-portrait created by Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka. The painting was finished in 1929 and was done in Paris, commissioned by the Die Dame, a German fashion magazine. It was created to become the cover of the said magazine to celebrate the independence women. Besides its amazing symbolism, the self-portrait is one of the most popular Art Deco paintings of all time. Today, it’s now a part of a private collection in Switzerland.

Self-Portrait in the Green Bugatti

Self-Portrait in the Green Bugatti Context and Story

History

Tamara de Lempicka was commissioned by the Die Dame fashion magazine in 1929 to create a self-portrait for their front cover. The painting depicted the artist driving a green Bugatti race car.

She wore a leather helmet with long gloves and wrapped a grayish-white scarf around her neck, flying in the air.

It was as if the car was in motion and everything was moving fast and free, just like how a woman should be.

The publisher first saw Tamara driving in Monte Carlo, so he asked the artist for a similar painting for the cover of the magazine. When the artist said she wasn’t someone famous, the publisher simply said he was fascinated by the scene.

However, the artist didn’t have a Bugatti. Tamara drove a yellow Renault that was stolen one night when she was out celebrating with her friends. She only depicted herself driving a Bugatti as she thought it was more elegant.

Also, she also modified the Bugatti and moved the driver’s seat on the left side, so it’s closer to the audience. During that time, the Bugatti cars had the driver’s seat on the right side.

Women’s Beauty and Independence

The artist portrayed herself as a cold beauty with an icy gaze who is powerful and liberated. She was both unreachable because of her wealth and even dangerous; a femme fatale. Tamara was able to showcase exactly what an independent woman looks like, especially if you’re viewing the painting from today.

After the cover was published Self-Portrait instantly became an icon and a powerful image representing women’s independence.

The image was also closely related to Tamara’s own image. She would often photograph herself in a stylized way that she would look like famous movie stars. Then, she’d send photos of herself to fashion magazines.

Her hard worked had certainly paid off. The one and only Harper’s Bazaar interviewed the artist in Warsaw in January of 1932. The magazine even complimented her image of stirring up “interest by itself.”

Art Style

Tamara was well-known for paintings of nudes and portraits. While many of her works are tinged with erotic vibes, it was a play on how women can be sensual but use it to their advantage: a woman’s form and charm as her most lethal weapon.

Her style had a lot of geometric composition due to her affinity to Cubism but has the traditional and classic aesthetic of past movements. There’s a combination of new and old in every Lempicka painting.  And it’s no surprise as she studied in Academie Ranson in Paris where she was able to adapt the style of the Old Masters.

It was also her heavily cubist-influenced style that earned her a spot as one of the Art Deco painters in the 1920’s.

The artist’s style was also more editorial if to be compared with fashion magazine shots. They were crisp with a polished surface. Her paintings had a metallic sheen from the pureness of the colors she used.

Feminism

There’s a strong sense of feminism in Tamara’s works, especially with the Self-Portrait in a Green Bugatti. It was a strong representation that women are not at all the weaker of the sexes. The women figure can be strong but soft at the same time.

Nudity has often been seen as derogatory, especially when the subject is a woman. However, time passed by and nudes have become a way of protesting against the objectification of women. Female artists such as Tamara de Lempicka was able to showcase that women’s sensuality is their choice and can be turned into something that made them feel in control.

There’s also the sense of being free with Self-Portrait in a Green Bugatti. Probably by how nonchalant the artist is with driving and being on her own – as if showing that it can be the norm and it should be.

But while Tamara worked mainly on creating paintings of women, it’s unclear whether she was a feminist. However, she and her artworks became an icon, especially when she grew successful in a male-dominated career.

The Jazz Age

During her time as a painter, most artists would be working on cubist imageries and large murals of crowds. However, de Lempicka stuck to portraits. And while other painters drew Cubism with a sense of surrealism and abstract, the female artist created clear images – something recognizable from a crowd.

That’s why she, later on, told her only daughter that her paintings were often put in the best rooms as they gathered more attention. Her style was distinct at the time.

But not only did she gain fame from her unique style. Tamara’s artworks were clearly in tune with the time. Her portraits were a tribute to the jazz age where flapper women would ultimately break the stereotype surrounding the female figure.

Related Paintings

Autoportrait or Self-Portrait in a Green Bugatti isn’t the first and the last painting that made de Lempicka a household name in the world of art. A few of her most notable artworks include the following:

  • Group of Four Nudes (1925)
  • Nude on a Terrace (1925)
  • Kizette in Pink (1926)
  • La Belle Rafaela (1927)
  • The Musician (1929)
  • Portrait of Doctor Boucard (1929)
  • The Green Turban (1930)
  • Young Lady with Gloves (1930)
  • The Straw Hat (1930)
  • The Sleeper (1932)
  • Suzanne Bathing (1938)
  • Calla Lillies (1941)

During her time as a painter, her fans were mostly women from the world of the elite and the rich. Even today, her works are still admired – with icon Madonna being one of her biggest fans.

Self-Portrait in the Green Bugatti Resources

Wikipedia. Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoportrait_(Tamara_in_a_Green_Bugatti)

Wikipedia. Tamara de Lempicka. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamara_de_Lempicka

Scott, Grace Lisa. (2018, May 16). How Tamara de Lempicka’s ‘Green Bugatti’ Painting Defined an Era. Inverse. Retrieved from https://www.inverse.com/article/44920-tamara-de-lempicka-tamara-in-a-green-bugatti

Culture.pl. Self-portrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) – Tamara Lempicka. Retrieved from https://culture.pl/en/work/self-portrait-tamara-in-a-green-bugatti-tamara-lempicka

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