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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 4, No. 1, December 1978 - January 1979
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Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 4, No. 1, December 1978 - January 1979 - Page 13. December 1978 - January 1979. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. University of Houston Digital Library. Web. February 26, 2020. https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/884/show/869.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

(December 1978 - January 1979). Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 4, No. 1, December 1978 - January 1979 - Page 13. Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters. Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries. Retrieved from https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/884/show/869

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 4, No. 1, December 1978 - January 1979 - Page 13, December 1978 - January 1979, Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries, accessed February 26, 2020, https://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist/item/884/show/869.

Disclaimer: This is a general citation for reference purposes. Please consult the most recent edition of your style manual for the proper formatting of the type of source you are citing. If the date given in the citation does not match the date on the digital item, use the more accurate date below the digital item.

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Title Houston Breakthrough, Vol. 4, No. 1, December 1978 - January 1979
Publisher Breakthrough Publishing Co.
Date December 1978 - January 1979
Subject.Topical (LCSH)
  • Women
  • Periodicals
  • Feminism--United States--Periodicals
  • Newsletters
Subject.Geographic (TGN)
  • Houston, Texas
Genre (AAT)
  • periodicals
Language English
Type (DCMI)
  • Text
  • Image
Original Item Location HQ1101 .B74
Original Item URL http://library.uh.edu/record=b2332724~S11
Digital Collection Houston and Texas Feminist and Lesbian Newsletters
Digital Collection URL http://digital.lib.uh.edu/collection/feminist
Repository Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Repository URL http://info.lib.uh.edu/about/campus-libraries-collections/special-collections
Use and Reproduction Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by the content creator, author, artist or other entity, and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the copyright owner. For more information please see UH Digital Library Fair Use policy on the UH Digital Library About page.
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Title Page 13
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File Name femin_201109_546am.jpg
Transcript The Breakthrough Review the arts • books • dance • film • music TAMARA de LEMPICKA by Joanne Harrison After dinner the maid placed a shaded lamp beside the baroness's chaise longue. For just a moment it illuminated the upper part of her face, dramatizing her eyes, huge, strange, glowing, Pacific blue, their basilisk expression emphasized by dark lines defining the edges of her eyelids. Then she moved and her face was hidden in the shadows. A curl of cigarette smoke snaked upward in the pool of yellow light. Her left hand reached out and with a casually elegant gesture tapped ashes into a beaten copper tray. The lamplight glittered off the giant, square- cut topaz on her middle finger and the thick gold bracelet studded with hundreds of tiny rubies that complemented the vermilion lacquer on her nails. Her hands are still lovely, long and slender, belying her advanced age. I asked about The Book. "C'est un scandale!" she raged. "How can they print such scandals, such servant's gossip,-such lies?" Tamara de Lempicka, the Baroness Kuffner, cosmopolite, Houstonian and Deco artiste extraordinaire, was a legend fifty years ago; and now, at the age of eighty, she is a legend once again. During the 1920s and 1930s, her celebrity often overshadowed the fact that she was one of the most technically accomplished painters of her time. But while she retained the admiration of many art critics and historians of the Deco period, after World War II she faded from the public view. Then, last year, Italian publisher Franco Maria Ricci brought out a $115.50 English language edition of Tamara de Lempicka, a beautifully printed and bound coffee table book illustrated with color plates of the baroness's paintings. The book has generated a spate of newspaper and magazine articles about Lempicka, and so pulled her willy-nilly back into the spotlight. As the baroness sees it, the Ricci book has also generated a major scandal that threatens her reputation as an artist. The cause of the furor is the book's text, advertised in the subtitle as "the journal of Aelis Mazoyer, Gabriele D'Annunzio's housekeeper." D'Annunzio was the famous Italian poet and Mazoyer was his mistress and servant. The gleanings from the journal provide, to say the least, a curious juxtaposition to Lem- picka's paintings. The housekeeper's notes tell a back-stairs story of low romance and lecherous doings at the Vittoriale, D'Annunzio's infamous pleasure palace on Lago di Garda. Lempicka vibrates with fury and frustration when she mentions the book. True, she says, she was once invited by the eccentric, womanizing D'Annunzio to do his portrait, which she saw as a great opportunity for a young painter. True also that she accepted his invitation to paint him at the Vittoriale. But, she says, when she saw that D'Annunzio was more interested in seducing her than in sitting for her, she left. Now she is distressed and embarrassed by the third-hand "vulgarites" in the housekeeper's account of statements by D'Annunzio such as these: ". . . he had said to the lady (Lempicka) that the whole house was hanging by a hair of her c—." and "I wonder what that beast (Lempicka again) is doing down there, all alone with her legs spread." The publisher's plans for a new, inexpensive edition of the book have distressed the baroness even further. "It is bad enough what they have done with the few; now everyone will read these lies. This is not my work, my art," she fumes. "All that people will remember or know about me is this servant's lies." All the publicity surrounding the book, and in fact the introduction to the book itself^has described her as unknown, mysterious and reclusive, a globe-trotting cosmopolite who is difficult to find, or, if found, unwilling to give interviews. After a few inquiries in Houston, I discovered that she summers in Cuernavaca to escape the stifling Gulf Coast heat. A few more inquiries produced her telephone number. The long distance connection was very clear. She readily agreed to be interviewed. "Ring my daughter Mrs. Foxhall in the River Oaks and she will give you directions," the baroness said. "In this villa I have not a good north light. On Monday I move to another where it is better. You must come on Wednesday." The warm Cuernavaca morning was heavy with the scent of frangipani. Birds of paradise grew in well-trained rows beside the still, blue surface of the pool. White lace butterflies with wingspans wide as swallows' moved nervously against a backdrop of towering black- green pines. Around a corner of the baroness's villa, near the herb garden, an old man with brown leather skin, a spotless white shirt of much-washed manta cruda, and an ancient broad- brimmed straw hat was sweeping rhythmically. He swept away the dozen or so leaves that had fallen overnight to mar the green perfection of the lawn. The gardener stopped at the sound of the baroness's footsteps on the flagstones. She moved beautifully, floating by in a floor-length swirl Nof vivid colors, full blown roses silkscreened on a virtually diaphanous material, her picture hat casting shadows on her face. She paused on the path beside the pool, an ethereal figure reflected in the water. The gardener stood very still, holding his homemade broom of twigs. She passed by. He tipped his hat. I stood on the patio of the guesthouse, in the shade of a lavender-flowering jacaranda, and watched the scene being played out: direction by George Cukor, production design by Cecil Beaton. She saw me and beckoned, an imperious gesture, balletically graceful. "Come, child, it is time to work." I followed her into the shadows of the veranda where she arranged herself on a chaise longue, as artfully unselfconscious as an Odalisque by Ingres. Her voice is dusky, mesmerizing, — a deeper version of the young Lauren BacalPs. Her accent is Mayfair overlayed with Czarist Russian and with new chic French - all elegant Parisian vowels playing counterpoint to deep-throated Slavic consonants. She shades every word as if it were a bar of music, a part of something larger but at the same time perfect in itself. Probably she no longer speaks any language in its pure form. Instead, her speech is now a colorful argot of her own devising, a fascinating juxtaposition of vivid expressions borrowed from most of the languages of western Europe. "Put off the recording machine, child, and close the book. When you listen, you must listen." She leaned back into the cushions, their faded gray-and-blue pattern framing the ivory parchment of her skin. High, exotic cheekbones emphasized the angularities of a face that recalls half-forgot ten poetry. "Autumn is like an old woman/ who is still beautiful/because her bones are good." She arched her back, briefly touching me." She smiled. "When she was finished, I did not like the result; it was not . . . precise. The lines, they were not fournies, not clean. It was not like me. I decided that I could do better. I did not know the technique. I had never painted, but this was unimportant. "My sister was two years younger. I obtained the paint. I forced her to sit. I painted and painted until at last I had a result. It was imparfait but more like my sister than the famous artist's was like me." She smiled a slow, sophisticated smile that both acknowledged and indulged the audacity of her younger self. Although Polish by birth, Tamara was, from an early age, a peripatetic cosmopolitan. The Gorska family was well-connected throughout Europe. Her the cushions with the top of her head, emphasizing the length of her neck, surely once compared to alabaster columns. She shut her eyes, rolling them back and at the same time sighing deeply. She waved her hand in a very Russian gesture. "We will begin ..." In the last summer of The Good Years, at a country house outside Warsaw, a twelve-year-old Tamara Gorska sat for her portrait. "I was a little fattie, une petite grosse," she remembers almost three- quarters of a century later. "My mother decided to have my portrait done by a famous woman artist who worked in pastels. I had to sit still for three hours at a time . . . more ... it was a torture. Later I would torture others who sit for UHomme a La Guitare Musee de Beauvais, France "I wished to paint an old man. It was a very strong desire. I must find the old man. So I went to I'Academic La Grande Chaumiere to search for a model. There I found the face. An old man in rags. . I said he must sit dressed exactly as he is. He came back to my studio. He sat for some days, always looking so sad. Then one day, before we begin, he takes from his pocket a wallet from which he takes a very old, very yellow cutting from the newspaper. It was folded and refolded one hundred times. He gives it to me and says, 'J was not always as you see me.' The cutting tells of Rodin's lovers (The Kiss). // tells the model's name. 'lam that man,' he says." uncle's banking house had offices in France, Switzerland and Russia, in addition to Poland; and her grandmother took her on a grand tour of the Italian art museums when she was just thirteen. When she was not much older, she fell in love with Thadeus Lempitzski. "He was the great love of her life. They married when she was only fifteen," her granddaughter, Houstonian Tamara (Cha Cha) Foxhall Molinello, says. The young couple moved to St. Petersburg, now Leningrad, where Lempitzski was a lawyer for the bank owned by his wife's family. When the Russian revolution erupted, they fled with what they could salvage and joined the flood of aristocratic emigres. "First we went briefly to Copenhagen. Denmark is a nice little country, but DECEMBER/JANUARY 1979 HOUSTON BREAKTHROUGH 13