Erte, a Master of Fashion, Stage and Art Deco Design,

Is Dead at 97

The Queen of Sheba Mannikin, Folies Bergere, Paris, 1927

PARIS, April 21 — Erté, the Russian-born Art Deco designer whose prolific career in theater, sculpture and the graphic arts spanned most of the 20th century, died here today after a short illness. He was 97 years old.

Erté, whose name derived from the French pronunciation of the initials of his real name, Romain de Tirtoff, continued to work until just a few weeks ago. His recent designs included the set for the musical ”Stardust,” which recently ended a run in Washington, and the set and costumes for ”Easter Parade” at Radio City Music Hall.  …

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The New York Times published Erté’s obituary in their theatre section on April 22, 1990. He is considered one of  foremost costume and stage-set designer for film, theatre and opera in the 20th Century –  a master of the Art Deco style.

Harper's Bazaar, January 1915

His designs, especially dancers and “decadent,” luxurious and subtly erotic fashion images, became icons of the “Art Deco” style. In essence, Art Deco is a modern interpretation of the art movement that preceded it, Art Nouveau.

Contrary to what many critics later maintained, it was this inspiration, rather than the work of Aubrey Beardsley, that profoundly influenced my ultimate style. I did not discover Beardsley until when I had already been in Paris for a year. “

Erté’s inspiration came from European Orientalist art, Russian icons, Byzantine mosaics, Greek vase paintings, images of Indian and Egyptian art.

Erté lived with Prince Nicholas Ourousoff, a distant cousin and his business manager in Monte Carlo from 1914 to 1923 It was Nicholas  who first suggested a relationship with Harper’s Bazaar in New York – which lasted from January 1915 until December 1936 – 2,500 pen-and-ink drawings and  designs in the inner pages and 240 covers . (The pictured cover, January 1915, was Erté’s first cover.)  His work would also appear in Vogue, the Illustrated London News, Cosmopolitan and Ladies’ Home Journal.

Between the two World Wars, his elaborate stage and costume designs were

La Nouvelle Revue De Helene Martini, 1970s

in much demand for operas, theater and ballets in Paris, Monte Carlo, New York, Chicago and Glyndebourne -but perhaps most memorably for music hall productions, which were enormously popular at the time.

A change in Erté’s career came in 1965 when he was 73: he met Eric and Salome Estorick of the Grosvenor Galleries in London and New York.

They persuaded Erté to uncover thousands of perfectly preserved drawings from huge trunks in his cellar. They caused a mild sensation, a resurgence of Art Deco in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, a nostalgia craze.

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This post is a work in progress as there are many more mediums  influenced by Erte’s design genius.

The Arctic Sea, 1989, bronze

— The New York Times: Making Erte’s Furniture

Harper’s Bazaar: 140 years of Bazaar’s archives

1918: Erté often used his signature blue for impact


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