. . . more on Erté


Erté, born Romain de Tirtoff in Russia, lived 1892-1990.


Erté and the Theater:
   Raised in the glittering cultural milieu of St. Petersburg, Russia, Romain de Tirtoff was enthralled by the fine and theatrical arts even as a young child.  His elegantly dressed mother served as an inspiration to pursue a career in fashion.  Choosing not to continue in the distinguished heritage of his family, Romain emigrated to Paris in 1912.  The French pronunciation of "R" for Romain and "T" for Tirtoff combined to make Erté - a name that became prominent in the world of theater and fashion in both the U.S. and Europe.
   Erté's world of fantasy was formed in his childhood when he spent countless hours immersed in a book of Persian miniatures in his father's library or transfixed by the delicate lines of the figures on Greek vases in the Heritage Museum.  Fasinated by the ballet and opera in St. Petersburg, he was also strongly influenced by the Ballets Russes in Paris.  Because the artist's sense of design was so accomplished, singer and fashionable socialite Ganna Walska commissioned Erté - who she called "the most imagiative man in the world" - to create many of the opea costumes on display in this exhibition.
   Erté's first theatrical designs were for famed courtrier Paul Poiret's Orientalist fancy dress balls and for Le Minaret, an influential 1913 theatrical production by Jacque Richepin that provided Erté the opportunity to express his prodigious sense of fantasy.  His lengthy and illustrious career as an artist and designer included costumes for many operas in Paris and abroad from 1920 - 1961 as well as Hollywood movies and a long list of spectacular music hall revues in Paris and New York.
   Erté's theatrical costume was characterized by rich and vibrant color - color that gave the costume a commanding presence and confirmed its identity as a work of art.   A designer's participation is critically important to the success of the costumes.  Erté was involved in the smallest detail.
   Erté was meticulous; the countless hours he spent in realizing his exacting sketches are incalculable, and could only have been accomplished by complete absorption in the project at hand.  Very fine lines were painted (rather than drawn) with brushes and gouache.  Pearls and jewels emerged from a painstaking application of minute dots of paint in multiple layers.   Erté's drawings are characterized by his delicately fluid serpentine line, which possesses a concentrated energy that conveys a sense of motion even within the most confined spaces.  His works are completely two dimensional, yet the volume and form of the figure emerge without the use of shading.  A careful attention to detail is always evident; the smallest ornaments or satelite elements of construction are rendered with precision.
   Erté described the degree of his involvement: "A very important part of my work for the (theatre) is devoted to supervising the execution of my sets and costumes.  In fact I spend more time on this than on the designs themselves . . . .  For costumes, I have to select the fabrics, indicate the way in which they are to be cut, explain how the embroideries should be executed, and then assist at the fitting, supervising every detail.  Although my sketches are very clear, I still have to give a great deal of explanation."
   Erté's expertise as a costume designer was grounded in his apprenticeship at the fashion house of Paul Poiret, where the young designer learned the techniques of haute couture dressmaking.  He was also a serious student of the history of costumes, and his theater designs were faithful to the silhouette and style of the period even when taking liberties with authenticity in fabrics of decoration in order to achieve the effect he envisioned.  Fabrics of the earlier period were stiff and weightier, given garments a more sculptural quality.  The lithe and supple fabrics of the Ballet Russes "Oriental" costumes profoundly influenced fashion of the day, inspiring a preference for soft textiles.

Park West Gallery (an Auction house I buy from) on Erté:
   Romain de Tirtoff - raised as a child of the social elite, Erté moved to France at the age of 18 to work in the world's center of art and fashion.  Beginning his career under Paul Poiret, the most respected couturier in Paris at the time, Erté went on to work for Harper's Bazaar for twenty-two years where he created more than 240 magazine covers.   His reputation earned him the patronage of Mata Hari, Pavlova, and Mrs. William Randolph Hearst, as he became a major contributor to the fashions of the twentieth century.  Erté began his work with the fine print media in the 1970's, publishing more than 180 of his designs through the Circle Fine Art Corporation and then numerous lithographs and serigraphs commissioned by various publishers.  In 1979, the Smithsonian Institution organized a retrospective of his work, which traveled to many major museums across the U.S. and Canada.   Erté has often been called the "Father of Art Deco," the style that came into vogue internationally in the 1920's.  Erté defined it as a fusion of the curvilinear designs of Art Nouveau of the 19th Century with the Cubist, Constructivist, and geometrical designs of modernity.  He was also influenced by Persian miniatures and would often use a brush with a single hair to complete his gouache paintings.  His imagination was limitless, and Erté designed costumes, stage sets, jewelry, objet d'art, sculpture and ceramics.  Unlike many artists who work freely before a canvas or sketchpad, Erté developed his own unique process: he would visualize the entire work of art in his mind until it was completed to every detail, and then create the work from his "mind's eye."  At the time of his death at the age of 98, he was considered one of the most influential artists of the 20th Century.
  

The Portrait

Samson & Dellilah

La Tristesse

Watercolor at Auction

Chaste Susanna

Autumn

Rain

Mah-jongg

Bronze Rigoletto Sculpture

Mediterranee

Starstruck

Noon

The Wave

Earth's Dream

Summer Snow

Bonds of Love

The Kiss

Eden w/ Rigoletto

click on "next" and "back" to see some more of Erté's work
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My pride and joy(s) include . . . .

A signed and numbered Erté dress from the 80's.    An Erté letter opener.

My "É" and my "T" - each letter is a 1½" x 1" free floating Pendant/Brooch in sterling silver with gold plate, accented with crystals.  The signature is stamped on the verso.  Inspired by the lithograph series The Alphabet.  It is a new release (2003).

My favorite piece - from The Four Emotions Suite, La Jalousie, 1982.  22¾" X 17¾".  Graphic Edition, embossed Serigraph with Foil Stamping .  Signed in pencil, numbered (300 numbered, I-C Roman Numerals, 50 AP).  Blindstamp of the publisher (Circle Fine Art), lower left margin.  Copyright seal, left margin.

Selection of a Heart from The Twenties Remembered Again Suite - June 1978. 16¾" x 12½" Serigraph in color on wove paper.  Signed in pencil, annotated "AP" from the artists proof edition (300 numbered and 98 Roman Numeral proofs also exist).  Blindstamp of the publisher (Circle Fine Art), lower left margin.  Copyright seal, left margin.

Also from The Twenties Remembered Again Suite - First Dress - 18" x 14¾".  Lithograph in color on wove paper.  Signed in pencil, numbered (I have 277/300 - from the edition of 300).  Blindstamp of the publisher (Circle Fine Art), lower left margin.  Copyright seal, left margin.

From The Vamps Suite - La Pretentieuse, 1979.  15" x 10½".  Lithograph in color on wove paper.  Signed in pencil, numbered (I have 288/300 - from the edition of 300).  Blindstamp of the publisher (Circle Fine Art), lower left margin.  Copyright seal, left margin.

And of course, my first Serigraph - La Somptueuse, in color on wove paper.  Signed in pencil, numbered (I have 23/300 - from the edition of 300).  Blindstamp of the publisher (Circle Fine Art), lower left margin.  Copyright seal, left margin.


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