A little selection of camp decorative works by Romain de Tirtoff (1892 – 1990) was a Russian-born French artist and designer known as Erté, (from the French pronunciation of his initials)
Born into an aristocratic family in St. Petersburg on Nov. 23, 1892, Erte was attracted to the theater and at one point wavered between becoming a dancer or an artist. But eventually, he recalled years later, “I came to the conclusion that I could live without dancing but could not give up my passion for painting and design.”
In 1912, he moved to Paris and collaborated briefly with the fashion designer Paul Poiret. Moving on to the theater, he designed costumes for an exotic young dancer named Mata Hari, who would be shot as a spy for the Germans in 1917. Performers from Sarah Bernhardt to Anna Pavlova would wear his costumes.
Between 1915 and 1937 he designed hundreds of covers for the monthly fashion magazine Harper’s Bazaar. His highly stylized designs of sinuous women draped in beads and furs helped define fashion for a generation. 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 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 was enormously popular at the time.
Erté also designed the most over-the-top extravagant costumes and stage sets for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes.
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.
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. (Second from Last)
Erté carried on working until his death in 1990, at the age of 97.