Los Angeles County Museum Of Art Erté Exhibit

Erté . . .December 14, 2003 - April 4, 2004 held in the Robert O. Anderson Building at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

   During my brief visit back to L.A., I went to LACMA to see my favorite artist's (Erté) exhibit on March 29.   You can imagine how excited I was to go.
   Equipped with camera, voice recorder, and notepad I was informed that any and all photography or audio recording of the exhibit was prohibited (even for me).

What do you mean I can't take pictures??
   Hmmph!   There were costumes, costume sketches, and some text about some of the plays.   I transcribed most of the text and managed to get a couple photographs (don't ask), but you will have to use your imagination based on my descriptions. Enjoy . . . .


About . . .


from left to right:
  1st costume sketch is gouache on paper for Ganna Walska as Marguerite, Faust 1920 - it was done in velvet, lame, silk, and faux pearls - the original Faust Composer was Charles Gounod and it premiered March 19, 1859 at Theatre Lyrique, Paris.   Marguerite's gown is in the style of 16th century but its fabrication in plush velvet is more in keeping with the taste of the early 20th century.  The other 2 costume sketches for Ganna Walska as the Countess, Le Nozze di Figaro (Marriage of Figaro) 1923

  Ganna Walska: born Poland 1887 Hanne Puacz lived in Santa Barbara owned Theatre de Champs Elysees, Paris 1923-1973. More sketches and costumes included:
   Ganna Walska as Louise; Ganna Walska as Mimi, La Boheme Ganna Walska as Melisande, Pelleas et Melisande 1931 -its Composer was Claude Debussy and it premiered April 10, 1902 at Opera Comique, Paris; 2 costume sketches for Ganna Walska as Donna Elvira, Don Giovanni (Don Juan) 1923 - done in lame velvet silk faux pearls, its Composer was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and it premiered October 29, 1787 at the Estates Theater, Prague; costume for Ganna Walska as Violetta Valery, La Traviata 1923 - done in shot silk metallic thread, rhinestones it was made by Redfern Couture House, which was founded in London 1855 and active in Paris 1881-1929, its Composer was Guiseppe Verdi and it premiered March 6, 1853 at La Fenice, Venice; 6 costume sketches done in gouache on paper for Ganna Walska as Gilda, Rigoletto 1922 - made in silk velvet, linen, suede, velvet, leather, plastic - the opera was set in the 16th century, its Composer was Guiseppe Verdi and it premiered March 11, 1851 at La Fenice, Venice; 3 costume sketches for Ganna Walska as Manon Lescaut, Manon 1920 - its Composer was Jules Massenet and it premiered January 19, 1884 at the Opera Comique, Paris; 4 costume sketches for Ganna Walska as Floria Tosca, Tosca 1919 - its Composer was Giacomo Puccini and it premiered January 14, 1900 at the Theatro Costanzi, Rome; costume sketch for Ganna Walska as Aphrodite; 6 costume sketches for Ganna Walska as Zaza, Zaza - done in painted silk made in a Chinese silk reproduction; 3 costume sketches 1939: L' Institutrice (the School Teacher), possibly for Scala Theater, Berlin; Les Orientals, possibly for Scala Theater, Berlin; and Le Magicien (the Magician), possibly for Scala Theater, Berlin

8 costume sketches done in gouache on paper for Music Hall Revues 1934-39

top row from left to right:
  Colombine 1937; Barbey 1939; Le Garnet du Bal (the Dance Card), revue at the Bal Tabarin 1939; and Pierrot, Le Bal de l'Opera at the Bal Tabarin 1939
bottom row from left to right:
  Deuxieme Masque Snob (Second Mask for a Snob) Le Bal de l'Opera at the Bal Tabarin 1939; Troisieme Masque Snob (Third Mask for a Snob) Le Bal de l'Opera at the Bal Tabarin 1939; Premier Masque Hilare (First Laughing Mask) Le Bal de l'Opera at the Bal Tabarin 1939; and Deuxieme Masque Hilare (Second Laughing Mask) Le Bal de l'Opera at the Bal Tabarin 1939
   another picture of second and third "snob" masks

This kimono is an example of the Western approach to construction of a traditional Asian garment.  The body of an authentic Japanese kimono is composed of two full widths of fabric, so that the garment is flat and rectangular, while the Western adaptation cuts into the full width, trimming the fabric away at the waist and hips and widening the shirt.  When the Obi (sash) is tied around the middle, a completely different silhouette is achieved; where the Japanese kimono is cylindrical, the European version has a distinct A-shape.  As a costume, this garment's shape made it easier to navigate the stage and to change between acts, as well as being more flattering to the star's figure.

(orange Obi) silk metallic thread embroidery, painted silk and (pink kimono) silk chiffon, rhinestones, silk crepe

(teal blue, blue, periwinkle blue squares with white flowers on Obi) Silk painted silk faille

2 costumes for Ganna Walska as Cio-Cio-San, Madame Butterfly 1923 - the original Composer was Giacomo Puccini and it premiered February 17, 1904 at La Scala, Milan.

Erte created a fascinating combination of East and West in Cio-Cio-San's wedding kimono.  He appropriated a traditional Japanese hexagonal motif, the Kikko, and with the nested squares depicted an enlarged simulation of the Japanese shibori tie-dye technique.  The costumes palette, however, is reminiscent of ballet in St. Petersburg and the Ballets Russes, and the symmetry of format is more European than Japanese.   With pattern placement, scale, and color choice, the kimono is transformed into a textile more typical of French Art Deco.

  Set in Nagasaki in the early twientieth century, the story opens with the marriage of Cio-Cio-San (Butterfly) a 15-year-old Japanese girl, and Pinkerton, an American naval officer.  Pinkerton takes the union lightly and never intends to stay with Butterfly for life, but she risks everything for the marriage as her disapproving family severs all ties with her.  Shortly after the wedding, Pinkerton returns to the U.S., leaving Butterfly to anxiously await his return.  Several years later Pinkerton returns to Japan.  Hearing the news, Butterfly, dressed in her bridal costume, waits at home for him with their son.  When Pinkerton eventually plans to visit accompanied by his American wife, Butterfly seems to accept her husband's marriage and offers to give up the child if his father comes in person to fetch him. As Pinkerton arrives calling her name, Butterfly kills herself with her father's ceremonial dagger.
   Ganna Walska mentioned the wedding kimono in her autobiography, "Always Room at the Top".  She noted that while Erte had done wonders in designing this ensemble of multiple kimonos, it posed the complicated challenge of removing each seperate layer gracefully during her performance.

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