Yesterday, Sotheby’s opened bidding for its inaugural edition of the Impressionist and Modern Online Day sale. Among a group of 113 lots total is darling of the modern market Tamara de Lempicka’s Une Rose from 1938 on offer with an estimate of $100,000-150,000.
Lempicka has reached new heights this year, with the artist’s market share ranking in the top three among the highest selling artists in the Impressionist and Modern Art London sales in February 2020 between Phillips, Sotheby’s and Christie’s. In February 2020, her 1932 Portrait de Marjorie Ferry established new auction record for the artist, realizing a price of £16.2 million ($21.1 million) in a Christie’s evening sale— surpassing her previous record set three months prior with La Tunique Rose (1927) going for $13.3 million in a Sotheby’s New York evening sale. And with the appeal of surrealist works and art of the 1930s increasing among modern collectors, art deco era works are seeping into the day sales, contrasting against the typically impressionist-heavy offerings.
The polish painter known for her Bohemian lifestyle garnered renown for her art deco style signature of the 1920s to 1930s, eventually becoming the image of female liberation in the interwar era. In the work on offer, Lempicka’s small-scale rose is signature both for its sleekness—a feature of ‘soft cubism’ typical of the art deco movement, and for its nod to the classical— the floral scheme bears resemblance to that of her splayed out painted female nudes, imbued with an undertone of sexuality. This highly stylized aesthetic marked her rebellion against the neutral and expressive method of her contemporaries in the Paris avant-garde, among whom were modernist heavy weights Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and André Gide.
The work was completed in the year before Lempicka’s emigration to Los Angeles in 1939 before the start of WWII. Hailing from the collection of Victor Manuel Contreras, the painting carries an ideal provenance having been acquired directly from the artist around the time of the artists’s death in 1980. In it’s first time surfacing at auction, the piece stands out alongside impressionists like Bonnard and Renoir featured in the day sale.
Commissioned by wealthy and prominent European figures, Lempicka was prolific—producing an wide range of figurative nudes, urban scenes and still lifes. In 1925 she was included in the seminal International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts in Paris—where she caught the attention of Harper’s Bazaar. The same year she was the subject of a first solo major exhibition in Milan for which she created 28 paintings in just six months. In 1927, she was awarded a prize at the Exposition Internationale des Beaux Arts in Bordeaux for her portrait of her daughter, Kizette. And in 1929, she produced her famous image, the Buggati self-portrait— emblematic of modern independence and luxury— for German fashion magazine, Die Dame.