Roman Erte

by Michelle Davies

Erte’s distinguished career spanned over 80 years and crossed over into several mediums including fashion illustration, stage and costume design and bronze sculpture. He is widely recognized as the most influential artist of the Art Deco movement.

Art Deco  was an eclectic design style which began in Paris in the 1920s, flourished internationally during the 1930s, fell out of favour in the 1940s and enjoyed a resurgence during the 1960s and again in the 1980s.

Arctic Sea

A departure from the flowing asymmetrical curves of Art Nouveau, Art Deco embraced may different styles of the early 20th centre, including Futurism, Cubism, Modernism, Constructivism and Neoclassical.

It’s lavishness is attributed to reaction to the forced austerity imposed by World War I. Founders included Hector Guimard, Eugene Grasset, Paul Bellot and Emile Decoeur.

Erte or Roman Tyrtov (also known as Romain de Tirtoff) was born on November 23, 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Roman moved to Paris at 14 and enrolled at the Academie Julien to pursue fashion and stage design and changed his name to Erte.

His first job was with leading French designer, Paul Poiret. His style was influenced by the glamorous costumes and sets of the Parisian Music Halls.

Symphony in Black 1982

His fashion illustrations graced the covers of Vogue, Cosmopolitan and Harper’s Bazaar for which he produced over 200 covers and other artwork.

In 1925, Louis B. Mayer brought him to Hollywood to design sets and costumes for the silent film Paris. There were many script problems, so Erté was given other assignments to keep him busy. Hence, he designed for such films as Ben-HurThe MysticTimeThe Comedian, and Dance Madness.

When Art Deco fell out of favour in the 1940s and 1950s, so did Erte’s designs. However, he enjoyed a ‘second career’ with the renewed interest in all things Deco in the 1960s.

During this period (which lasted right until his death in 1990), he created visually stunning fashion serigraphs and bronze sculptures.


Buy Erte

Museum 1999 (Tokyo)




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