Daily Archives: March 5, 2010

Time travel

Today we welcome the return of Anu and Ashok to our group of the Loose Blogging consortium which includes Conrad, Gaelikaa, Ginger, Judy, Magpie 11, Maria, Ramana and I, and most of us will pen our thoughts on the topic for the week, chosen today by Judy.

“If I could travel in Time, I would……..”

“Look at me, I’m in another world – a dream world that invites oblivion. People take drugs to achieve such freedom from their daily cares. I’ve never taken drugs. I’ve never needed them. I achieve a high through work.” ~ Erté

If I could travel in Time, I would like to go back….  Back in time to the world of Erté.

He was born Romain de Tirtoff in Saint Petersberg but liked to call himself Erté after the French pronunciation of his initials. Destined for a military career, Erté surprised a number of people by creating his first successful costume design at the age of five.

In 1912, some say at the age of 14, others say19, his father finally allowed him to move to Paris to fulfil his dream of becoming a fashion illustrator.  He was one of the foremost fashion and stage designers of the early 20th century.

His time in Paris covered a stint in the Haute couture house of Paul Poiret and a twenty-two-year association with Harper’s bazaar to the beginning of World War II.  During that period, Erte produced 250 covers for Bazaar; innumerable drawings for the magazine’s pages; fashion designs for some of the world’s most glamorous women; costume and set designs for Hollywood movies and stage productions ranging from scenes in Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, many productions of the Folies-Bergere and the Paris Opera. George White’s Scandals followed in 1988.

Erté pursued his chosen careers with zest and creativity for almost 80 years.  His appreciation of the sinuous and lyrical human figure was amazing, as well as the music-hall, Erté also designed for the traditional theatre.

Erté began a second career when he met London art dealer Eric Estorick in 1967.  Impressed by the superb work in the artist’s Paris studio, Estorick was determined to relaunch Erté’s career.  This effort was crowned with spectacular success in New York and London exhibitions of gouache paintings and drawings.  The demand for his work by not only those able to afford originals but young people of limited means was too large to be satisfied by the existing works.  This led to the decision to create multiples – first graphics and, later, bronze sculptures.

During the twenty-five years of Erté’s second career he achieved again the level of fame that he had in an earlier generation, but with an even wider public.  Those years saw also the publication of many books on Erté’s work, including two large-format books on the graphics, “Erte at Ninety” and “Erte at Ninety-Five”, and one on the sculpture “Erte Sculpture”.  By far, his best known image is Symphony in Black depicting a tall, slender woman draped in black holding a thin black dog on a leash. The influential image has been reproduced and copied countless times.

His work may be found in the collections of several well-known museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London,   and the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a sizable collection of work by Erté can be found at Museum 1999 in Tokyo.

On his death in 1990, he was hailed as the “prince of the music hall” and “a mirror of fashion for 75 years”.

The genius of Erté