The Last Nude by Ellis Avery

January 5, 2012
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The Last Nude
Ellis Avery

Riverhead Books
1-5-12
Hardcover/320 pages
ISBN: 978-1-59448-813-9
Buy This Book
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". . . a marvelous read wrapped around historical events. . ."

The Last Nude is a brilliant story harmonized with Author Ellis Avery’s remarkable ability to fabricate stimulating scenes and captivating characters. Avery weaves this sensual drama around the true historical life of Polish art deco artist Tamara de Lempicka and her fictional muse and model, Rafaela Fano.

American-born Fano, 16, escapes a ship bound for Italy and an arranged marriage with an “ugly man” who offers her to take her to Paris where she is passed around “like a secondhand toy” until she encounters de Lempica along Bois de Boulogue. After a short meeting, de Lempica recognizes she can do whatever she wants with this girl and offers her a job modeling.

De Lempicka, born of a wealthy Polish family, was married to a count from St. Petersburg. During the Russian Revolution in 1917, she and her husband moved to Paris where she was highly recognized for art deco nudes and portraits of aristocrats. In the fictional story de Lempicka is divorced, still famous, but plagued with memories of war and poverty.

Avery’s language draws for the reader the powerful emotions and affection that develops between two women. When “Tamara set down her drawing board … ,” Fano says, her “world fell apart behind my eyelids in sheets of apricot light and pale gold hair … I felt like a gardenia blossom … fragrant and bruisable.”

When de Lempika’s nude Fano painting, La Belle Rafaela, sparks instant success in an elite saloon, she conspires to snare a wealthy man who will do anything for the nude. De Lempika paints a duplicate and deceives Fano into believing she loves her and the second painting is their “private Rafaela.”

This spellbinding book recreates lively images of an artist painting in a Paris flat, curtains flapping in the wind, as she places thin layers of brilliant paint on a canvas to shape her sensual and luminous portraits, a style complemented by cubism and the spontaneity of Paris’s Bohemian life in the 1920s. It is a marvelous read wrapped around historical events, two world wars and the Depression.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla

 

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This post was written by Kate Padilla

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