May 16, 2018 4:24 AM EDT

Tamara de Lempicka never stopped challenging expectations. A refugee of the Russian Revolution, she became an icon of the Jazz Age and a celebrated Art Deco painter. Today, on what would have been her 120th birthday, Google pays tribute to Lempicka with a Doodle in her signature style. Here’s what to know about the pioneering Polish artist.

An early love of art

Lempicka was born as Maria Górska in 1898 Warsaw, Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, to a wealthy family. She was sent to boarding school in Switzerland and toured Italy with her grandmother, where she was exposed to some the greatest works of Renaissance art.

She moved to St. Petersburg in Russia and married, but the very next year, the Russian Revolution forced Lempicki and her husband to flee. They found refuge in Paris.

A pioneering painter

Lempicka became a fixture of Paris’ bohemian art scene. Her paintings, often portraits of her celebrity peers or stylized nudes, merged late cubist and neoclassical techniques to create a metal-like visual style that was distinctively her own. She also incorporated elements of the Roaring Twenties: one of her most famous compositions, Autoportrait (1929), portrays the artist in a sleek green sports car.

“My goal is never to copy,” Lempicka reportedly said. Instead, she sought to “create a new style, clear luminous colors and feel the elegance of the models.”

A visitor looks at Tamara de Lempicka's "Portrait de Majorie Ferry" at Sotheby's in New York on May 1, 2009.
Lucas Jackson—Reuters:

Lempicka continued painting long after she moved to the U.S. in 1939, this time fleeing World War II. When she died in Mexico on March 18, 1980, as per her request, her ashes were scattered over a volcano.

“Few artists embodied the exuberant roaring twenties more than Polish artist Tamara de Lempicka,” said Matthew Cruickshank, who drew Wednesday’s Doodle in a style emulating Lempicka’s own. “Her fast paced, opulent lifestyle manifests itself perfectly into the stylized Art-Deco subjects she celebrated in her paintings.”

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