Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti)

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Autoportrait (Self-Portrait in a Green Bugatti)
Tamara de Lempicka, Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti).jpeg
Artist Tamara de Lempicka
Year 1929
Medium Oil on panel
Dimensions 35 cm × 27 cm (13 (3/4) in × 10 (5/8) in)
Location Private Collection, Switzerland

Autoportrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) is a self-portrait by the Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka, which she painted in Paris in 1929. It was commissioned by the German fashion magazine 'Die Dame for the cover of the magazine, to celebrate the independence of women. It is one of the best-known examples of Art Deco portrait painting.


In 1929, Lempicka was commissioned to make a self-portrait for the cover of the German fashion magazine, Die Dame. This showed her at the wheel of a Bugatti racing car, wearing a leather helmet and gloves and wrapped in a gray scarf; she portrayed herself as a portrait of cold beauty, independence, wealth and inaccessibility.[1] In fact she did not own a Bugatti automobile; her own car was a small yellow Renault, which was stolen one night when she and her friends were celebrating at Café de la Rotonde in Montparnasse.[2]


in 1929 This oil-on-panel, painting was one of her signature smaller portraitures but gained her reputable titles in the art world such as “baroness with a brush”, “modern Venus”, “female painter of females”, and more. In many of her paintings, including Autoportrait, there is a presence of alluring Caravaggesque lighting and a perfect balance of both delicacy and strength as if her subjects were painted with a sculptor’s eye.[3] In 1929, after having the painting published as the cover of Die Dame, a German fashion magazine; her self-portrait became known as the “hymn of the modern woman” for it would inspire the imagery of an emancipated woman.[4]

Portrait Details[edit]

Cockpit of a Bugatti type 43. The steering wheel was actually on the right, not the left, as shown in the portrait. But being a self-portrait, it would most probably viewed in a mirror as it was modeled - Mirror Image of a RHD drive car becomes LHD. It appears that the Bugatti used in the painting is a 1930 Type 46.

At first glance, the glacial stare of Tamara de Lempicka immediately becomes the center of attention in Autoportrait. As the rest of her body moves forward with speed and flowing electricity, she takes a moment to look the viewers in the eye to convey her emancipation from the ordinary household women status. She displays classic 1920s femme fatale features such as bold red lips, sharp facial features and well-groomed eyebrows.[5] In this portrait she not only reflected how she sees herself but how society sees the modern woman in mass media. She paints herself as the precedent of commercialism in a fashionable way with an artificial format, propping her body on the green Bugatti as though she is a mannequin.[6] Tamara repainted the same composition twice between 1974-1979.

De Lempicka did not own a Bugatti; her own car was a small yellow Renault. In her portrait de Lempicka modified the car, placing the driver on the left side, closer to the artist. The Bugatti cars of that period had the steering wheel on the right side.


Tamara studied her painting skills among the prevalent art and literature movements of Avant-Garde, Neo-Cubism, Futurism, and Art Deco of the "Lost Generation".[7] She studied at the Académie Ranson under Maurice Denis, although she only credits him for her draftsmanship skills. One of her main influences was Avant-Garde, Neo-cubist André Lhote (professor to De Lempicka at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière).[8] André Lhote’s Neoclassical and “humanism of Cubism” (otherwise known as neo-cubism) lessons inspired Tamara’s classical composure and adds to why many of Tamara’s portraitures are built with a sculptor’s eye and the billowing drapery of Greek-like fashion.[9] Tamara de Lempicka’s modern feel, however, is derived from a famous Futurist by the name of Filippo Marinetti. Marinetti’s Manifesto of Futurism declared that: “the splendor of the world has become enriched with a new beauty: the beauty of speed”.


A popular German fashion magazine, Die Dame, was quite familiar with Tamara’s work as far as her fashion etchings. The female editor of Die Dame encountered Tamara in Monte Carlo while the almost-divorced baroness was on vacation and commissioned De Lempicka to paint a self-portrait for an upcoming cover. Tamara took advantaged of this opportunity to paint a self-portrait and replaced her yellow Renault with a green Bugatti because she felt as though a green Bugatti appeared more elite and more beautiful.[10]


  1. ^ Lempicka-Foxhall 1987, p. 77.
  2. ^ Néret 2016, p. 7.
  3. ^ Blondel and Brugger, Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon," 18-21.
  4. ^ Blondel and Brugger, "Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon," 33.
  5. ^ Whitney Chadwick and Paula Birnbaum, "The Modern Woman Revisited: Paris between the Wars," 95.
  6. ^ Paula Birnbaum, =Tamara De Lempicka: The Modern Woman Personified,= 118.
  7. ^ Gioia Mori, "Tamara de Lempicka: The Queen of Modern," 22.
  8. ^ Blondel and Brugger, "Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon," 33.
  9. ^ Blondel and Brugger, "Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon," 32.
  10. ^ Kizette De Lempicka-Foxhall and Charles Phillips, Passion by Design: The Art and Times of Tamara De Lempicka, 77.


  • Birnbaum, Paula. Tamara De Lempicka: The Modern Woman Personified. 2012. ISSN 2391-7911
  • Blondel, Alain; Brugger, Ingried (2004), Tamara de Lempicka: Art Deco Icon, London: Royal Academy Books .
  • Chadwick, Whitney; Birnbaum, Paula de (2003), The Modern Woman Revisted: Paris between the Wars, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press .
  • Claridge, Laura (1999), Tamara de Lempicka: A Life of Deco and Decadence, New York: Random House .
  • Lempicka-Foxhall, Kizette (1987), Phillips, Charles, ed., Passion by Design: The Art and Times of Tamara de Lempicka, New York: Abbeville Press  External link in |publisher= (help).
  • Mori, Gioia (2011), Tamara de Lempicka: The Queen of Modern, Milano: Skira Editore .
  • Néret, Gilles (2016). Tamara de Lempicka - Déesse de l'ère automobile (in French). Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8365-3225-9.