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house. It was designed by Alfredo Terrazas de la Peña, also architect for Barbara Hutton's Japanese-inspired estate, Sumiya, in the same town. Artist Victor Manuel Contreras was her good friend in the last five years of her life. When it was too much for her to manage the house, she asked him to basically buy the mortgage. He did, and he would help her take care of the servants, and he took care of the property. It was a good arrangement for both of them. After Tamara passed away he sold it; now it belongs to a baron. The whole thing was just so magical. The human side of the grande dame. Marisa: I love to tell this story, because it shows a softer side. When my sister and I met Tamara, she was already 76 years old, and we were 5 and 4. She paid for our trip, from Argentina to Mexico. The most beautiful lunches, amazing breakfasts … She'd heat the pool for us so we could swim at night. She made the most amazing little dresses for us by hand. She went to the fabric store, bought the material, choose the pattern, cut it by hand. She spent three weeks making these dresses for us. I was invited to spend the night with her in her room in Cuernavaca. In those days, her favorite color was lilac. The whole room — I've never seen anything like that — from the bed covers to the walls to the furniture, it was all this lilac color. Lilac and white. When she bought the house, it was all black lacquer. For her, natural light was always important. She would paint by the window. She painted her whole life; till the day she died. She had two queen-sized beds. I'm already in bed, tucked in, and she decides to do a little touch-up on the painting she's working on. It was of Saint Anthony. She puts on her smock. I'd never smelled the scent of oil paints. She said, "You know, Marisa, when I was in Paris, we lost everything. I decided to start painting to support myself, to support your grandmother, to support Kizette, because we had lost all our jewels. I began selling my paintings, and they became very sought after and I became a very successful painter. After every painting I sold, I would buy myself a diamond bracelet. And I would not stop painting until I had bracelets from here to here" — gesturing from wrist to elbow. many times … Of course, she had to be guarded, calculating, on the defense. She was a tough woman, but once you put her in the context of what was going on in the world, you admire her even more. She's such a survivor. On Tamara and her collectors. Marisa: Madonna owns about four or five paintings, many of the important ones, including Andromeda. And Madonna's videos, "Open Your Heart," and "Vogue" are based upon her artwork. You'll see her paintings right away, and "Vogue" is totally Tamara. There's a video in the French archives of Tamara having dinner in her lavish apartment with her butler. He was Asian, and in "Vogue," Madonna has an Asian butler and all the aesthetics are Lempicka. It started with the Bugatti portrait. Victoria: It's very small format. It's She wanted to instill in me that you needed to work hard to get what you wanted. The bracelets weren't there to show off; they were a sign of security. Growing up in Argentina, a lot of women did not work. Think, in the 1920s, women were just earning the right to vote. She's an amazing artist, obviously gorgeous, and she devised all of it herself; she managed her own career. She had no one to rely on. On Tamara and her times. Marisa: Can you imagine her lifetime? She lived during the first World War, when her little brother was killed. Then the Bolshevik Revolution, then the Spanish Civil War. Mom says she was very touched by that because the artists were persecuted during the Spanish Civil War. Then the invasion of the Nazis, then Warsaw was destroyed. Two million Jews died in that bombing. Warsaw was devastated. They only left the old parts, where the castles are, because the Nazis were staying there. You have everything, you lose everything. How Victoria de Lempicka, Tamara de Lempicka's granddaughter Marisa de Lempicka, great-granddaughter of Tamara de Lempicka Tamara de Lempicka in Houston, circa 1965 (Continued on page 96) Tom Colburn, Houston CHroniCle 75

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