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September 10: “Girl With Gloves”


Some works of art are delightful even if they are less than great. This piece by Tamara de Lempicka (1898 – 1980), “Girl with Gloves” (1930) is one such.

Lempicka’s work is all about style, and in her dedication to  decorative boldness she is no slave to visual logic. Consider the shadows that create the texture of this piece. The forms slip from bright light to intense dark very quickly–as in the girl’s torso, where a narrow range of light tones model the figure, and then plunge into improbable darkness. Or that square neck. But shadows only happen when convenient. Her right arm, for example, casts no shadow across her torso, her torso casts no shadow across her left arm, and the shadow of her hat across her left shoulder stops there, without reaching the flurry of ruffles behind her.

And to keep the figure from vanishing into the background there are adroit if logically inexplicable halos on her left elbow, left breast, right arm, and right hip.

There are some infelicities. The left arm is oddly heavier than the right. The right breast is half the size of the left one, and several inches out of place.

But never mind. There is much to admire. The modeling in the girl’s face and hair have more gentle middle tones than elsewhere, and the shadows more light and warmer color. Again, this is inconsistent, but why quibble? Logic is not the point. The pleasure here is in the happy tumult of ingenious shapes.



(image from

This post is a reprise of February 4, 2012.