Born to a wealthy Jewish family in Vienna, Austria, Mariette Lydis (1887-1970, born Marietta Ronsperger) moved to Paris in 1925 and became a fixture of the art salons and bohemian life between the World Wars. At the beginning of her artistic career, Lydis expressed herself mostly with the creation of book illustrations for many authors, including Béla Balázs, Henry de Montherlant, Paul Valéry, and Pierre Louÿs. This type of work, then coexisted in the same realm as that of printmaking, since the imagery needed to be multiplied to illustrate each impression of a book’s edition. Lydis became well known for her print illustrations: lithographs, etchings, and drypoints. In all techniques she utilized grayscale to her advantage. A portraitist at heart, most of her subjects were women and children. Her subjects’ facial features are unmistakable. Her sitters have a doll-like quality, with exaggerated eyes, prominent cheekbones, and marked lips. The eyes are the most powerful element in most portraits, often deep and widely set. While her painted portraits are fairly traditionally composed, many of her prints were created to illustrate erotica, and thus depict women in various states of undress. Her powerful use of sexuality is a common thread throughout her work and is even present in subtle portraits. Married trice and known to have been in long-term relationships with other men, Lydis was also openly bisexual and very clearly liked depicting suggestive nude young woman. She left Paris in 1940, bound for Argentina, and never to return to Europe. She died in Buenos Aires in 1970, where she rests in the Recoleta Cemetery, home to many deceased notable residents of the capital.
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