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Father of Art Deco

An artist for over 80 years who changed not just the art world but forever left an indelible mark on fashion and architecture and American culture. This artist became the main innovator giving new inspirations to a period in history of art known as Art Deco. This new category of fashion, architecture and art was largely crafted by a Russian artist by the name of Romaine de Tirtoff born November 23rd, 1892- April 21st, 1990, best known as simply Erté.

Erté became known in the field of art and fashion as the father of Art Deco. Erté was prolific across a number of different artistic endeavors from fashion designer to set design to an artist of every medium possible (excelling in jewelry, painting and sculpture). Erté whose moniker was from the French pronunciation of his initials("R" for Romain and "T" for Tirtoff to make Erté) started his art career in 1912 in Paris at the young age of 19. He carefully choose his moniker so not to shame his family for the profession of art was a shameful one for the man whose father was an admiral in the military. In spite of his family's intolerance to his chosen career, Erté excelled and was prolific in many artistic endeavors from jewelry to fashion to print to sculpture. In the late 1920s he was under contract with and became the artist of choice for for the cover of a couture fashion magazine called Harper's Bazaar. Erté has over 250 illustrations to his credit alone just for the magazine!

Erté's work spans beyond magazine covers into imaginative and highly detailed bronze statues to prints and fashion. His work is prolific from paintings to sculpture perhaps only because of the length of his career - he was still actively painting and creating past age 95!  His artwork influenced the "roaring twenties" in American culture and abroad.  The influences of Art Deco continue in popularity in American even today.

Erte - Father of Art Deco

Erte Heart with Black and Gold
Erte Heart with Black and Gold | Source

Erte Parisian Cafe

Erte Parisian Cafe Black and White Framed in Gold
Erte Parisian Cafe Black and White Framed in Gold

Erte's Morning Exercise Program - 15 Minutes BEFORE Breakfast

"I get up late in the morning. When I wake up I exercise for fifteen minutes before breakfast. Sometimes I supplement my morning workout with an additional five minutes before dinner. I have never deviated from this routine, even when I am traveling. " www.neonissima.com

Erte Statues

Erte Statue
Erte Statue | Source
Erte Statue in Silver
Erte Statue in Silver | Source
Erte Title:  The Wave
Erte Title: The Wave | Source
Erte 3D StatueTitle:  Sampson and Delilah
Erte 3D StatueTitle: Sampson and Delilah | Source

Art Deco Quote

"Art Deco in France found its American equivalent in the design of the New York skyscrapers of the 1920s. The Chrysler Building ... was one of the most accomplished essays in the style."

John Julius Norwich, in The World Atlas of Architecture

Biography and Background of Erté

Romaine de Tirtoff born November 23rd, 1892- April 21st, 1990, best known as simply Erté.

"He moved to France at age nineteen and worked for a time sketching for Paul Poiret and designing opera and theater costumes. Between 1914 and the 1930s he created many magazine covers for Harper's Bazaar. In the United States he worked for Flo Ziegfeld and designed costumes for the film Ben Hur (1959). Influenced by Indian miniatures, his designs, illustrations, and drawings are sophisticated and highly stylized."

Father of Art Deco - Style Echoed Roaring Twenties

The 1920s is a time often referred to as the "roaring twenties", a time of jubilee denoted by jazz music, flapper dresses and new technology. The automobile, the radio ushered in exuberance. And the favorite fashion and artwork were attributable to the Art Deco style. Art Nouveau peaked around 1905 and the roaring twenties roared until the stock market crash in the United States in October 1929.

Erté himself defined Art Deco "as a fusion of the curvilinear designs of Art Nouveau of the 19th Century with the Cubist, Constructivist, and geometrical designs of modernity."

Erte’s work is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as at the Smithsonian.

Erte’s Longevity and Daily Discipline for Exercise

Erté lived to be 97 years old and continued to work well into his final years. His discipline both in art and in exercise (twenty minutes a day like clockwork) combined with his passion for beauty perhaps explains his longevity. Even in exercise, Erté was an innovator - 20 minutes a day - and what a great way to break it up - 15 minutes in the morning before breakfast and 5 minutes in the evening.

Art Deco Style of Art

Art Deco was primarily a design style attributable to architecture, fashion and print. Art Deco became very popular in the 1920s and 1930s in both the United States and Europe.

Some have related the Art Deco style of art as the follow-up style to the Art Nouveau movement. Art Deco is more streamlined.

The Art Deco movement permeated all of the United States in everything from fashion, furniture, to jewelry, and even textiles and architecture.

Two artists who are best known for this era - Erte the Father of Art Deco and Rene Lalique a jeweler and glassmaker. The Chrysler building in New York, designed by William Van Alen and complted in 1930 is commonly given as an example of Art Deco style in architecture. It is considered by many architects to be the finest example of architecture in New York City.  Interestingly, Walter Chrysler financed the building himself rather than the car manufacturer, he wanted his children to inherit that building.

Suites of Paintings - Lithographs and Affordable Fine Art

One of the many great things about this master artist is his body work includes lithographs in quantities of 300 or more. This volume allows a lower price tag and thus affords more prints and thus more owner the world over.

Erte in Print

Erte in print - modern lime green with dark background in beautiful ornate frame
Erte in print - modern lime green with dark background in beautiful ornate frame | Source
Erte Print entitled "Kissing"
Erte Print entitled "Kissing" | Source
Erte Print Title:  "Queen of the Nighte"
Erte Print Title: "Queen of the Nighte" | Source
Erte Print Title:  "Onde"
Erte Print Title: "Onde"
Eerte Print of a beautiful woman in a blue dress with her arms displaying the elaborate dress
Eerte Print of a beautiful woman in a blue dress with her arms displaying the elaborate dress | Source

Erté's Quotes

"I have always loved working at night. No one interrupts me. No telephone calls disturb my train of thought. I feel I have unlimited time. One bright lamp (its bluish light helps me to see the true colors) illuminates the drawing on which I am working." www.erte.com

"My mother was extremely beautiful, " wrote Erté in his memoir, "with blue-black hair worn in a smooth chignon which contrasted with her white skin. I shall always remember one night when I was quite young; she had come to my room to give me a goodnight kiss before going to a ball. She wore a dress of black chantilly lace over pink taffeta; around her decolletage was a garland of real roses. Perhaps this was the beginning of my love for all things connected with beautiful clothes and elegance." www.erte.com

Erté himself defined Art Deco "as a fusion of the curvilinear designs of Art Nouveau of the 19th Century with the Cubist, Constructivist, and geometrical designs of modernity."

Erté - The Man - Solitary Animal Similar to a Cat

In a book entitled "Erté at Ninety", there is a glimpse inside to the real man, the genius who called himself Erté.  Erté and Erté would see himself through the design of his un-lite home - a home with no interior lights - and with his two constant companions - his cats.

"The rest of the house is plunged in darkness except for a few dimly lit shells that enable me to leave my worktable if I have to. Everything is Focused on the brightly lit square of my table - a perfect aid to concentration. Even my cats pretend to be sleeping: they know that I am working. Being alone is vitally important for me and my work. I am a solitary person, and this may explain why I have such a great love of cats. Cats and I are very much alike. The cat is a solitary animal, very independent, very quiet by nature. Like Cats who hide themselves away when they are ill, I cannot stand people visiting me when I am indisposed. I want to be left alone." (Excerpt "Erte At Ninety"). www.erte.com

Magazine Covers

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Magazine Cover:  Harper's Bazaar
Magazine Cover:  Harper's Bazaar
Magazine Cover: Harper's Bazaar

Erte Pictura

Erte Fashion in Theater Print Magazine and Sculpture

Erte Statues - Bronzes

Erté's bronze statues were created in the 1970s yet still are considered a highly valued and much sought after piece of artwork even today - 40 years later!

Fashion in the Theater

Cleopatra bracelets, design for John Crawford and Lillian Gish.

gloriously extravagant costumes and stage sets that he designed for the Folies-Bergère in Paris and George White's Scandals in New York, which exploit to the full his taste for the exotic and romantic, and his appreciation of the sinuous and lyrical human figure.


Erte Magazine Covers - Fashion Harper's Bazaar

If you admire high end couture fashion, you know the preeminent fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar.

Harper's Bazaar was started in 1867 as a weekly magazine for upper middle class and upper class.

Erté's illustrative covers would span over 250 issues with Harper's Bazaar. Another artist who would reach world fame - Andrew Warhola (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987), known as Andy Warhol, also was an illustrator for this cutting edge fashion magazine.

Erte in Jewelry ala Art to Wear

Erte Jewelry Woman Profile and Gold Hair
Erte Jewelry Woman Profile and Gold Hair | Source
Erte Aphrodite Brooch
Erte Aphrodite Brooch | Source
Erte Art Deco Ring
Erte Art Deco Ring | Source
Erte Pearl Necklace with Art Deco Design
Erte Pearl Necklace with Art Deco Design | Source
Erte (Romain de Tirtoff) "Letter R Pendant / Brooch" Jewelry
Erte (Romain de Tirtoff) "Letter R Pendant / Brooch" Jewelry
Erte Title:  Sophistication 1984 8/9
Erte Title: Sophistication 1984 8/9 | Source
Erte Aphrodite Brooch/Necklace
Erte Aphrodite Brooch/Necklace | Source

Art to Wear

The bold and beautiful ring and high design Art Deco necklaces are described in detail below by one of the many auction houses of his jewelry:

"This magnificent ring, designed by the great Erté, truly expresses the aesthetics, philosophy and energy behind the phenomenally successful "Art to Wear" project that so engrossed the artist during the last ten years of his life:

  • "Alouette St. I"
  • Gold, pave´ diamonds, mother-of-pearl and blue topaz
  • Most sizes available
  • Reference: Erté — Art to Wear —The Complete Jewelry; pg. 27
  • New; mint

Quoting from Art to Wear :"The harmony of form and color in nature was one of Erte's lifelong concerns. The lark rising to the sky at daybreak was the inspiration for the 'Alouette' ring. The sky is echoed in the blue topaz, the sun is represented by the gold, a starry sky by the pave diamonds, and the moon by lustrous mother-of-pearl."   This very sophisticated ring-so much more than an exquisite piece of fine jewelry- will be the ultimate addition to any collection!

Sterling silver, gold vermeil, black onyx and Swarovski crystals.
Edition size limited to 1000.

The "Aphrodite" necklace is based on an early painting by Erte called "The Wave", which was later recreated as a serigraph. The nautical theme is carried through pictorially in the brooch/pendant and in a more abstract way in the necklace. At the same time, the artist alludes in the title to the mythic emergence of the Greek goddess of love from the sea, a story most familiar with reference to her Roman form, Venus."


The Genius of Erte

Erte in Fashion

Erte Fashion Sketch
Erte Fashion Sketch

Erte in Fashion and Fashion in Art

Erté's love of the human silhouette extended from print to sculpture to fashion to the many sets on stage including Ben Hur and Cleopatra.

Famous Series of Paintings

Erté unlike many other artists would create a series of paintings on a particular subjects. From multiple colors of hearts - purple and red of course to the famed alphabet. Similar to a fashion designer (because please recall that was his very first profession when he relocated from Russia to Paris - he designed the fashions for opera and theater costumes in Paris under Paul Poiret.  His job was to provide the designs and sketches for the theater productions.  Understanding his first professional art job was sketching fashion explains his series of jewelry and art work.  Like a good fashion designer items would be available for the color of choice.   For example, Erté's work in both jewelry and print would mimic this color or wardrobe change.  One of the most famous examples is the white background AND a black background for the Aphrodite brooch.   Other examples include the purple heart and the red heart painting.  And the largest of all series was more than just a color change, it was the entire alphabet.

Erté's Alphabet

40 Years to complete the Alphabet

Perhaps Erté's best known and recognized series of paintings was his "AlphaErté bet Suite" or Erté's Alphabet. This series is on permanent display at the Centre Pompidou Museum in Paris, and depicts each letter of the alphabet in true Erté style. In classic Erté artfulness each letter of the alphabet is formed using déshabillé (the state of being partly or carelessly dressed) - celebrating the human form. Erté began this project in 1927 and were completed 40 years later and released in 1977.

Erté was quoted about his series entitled the Alphabet said: "I started to work on the series of Alphabet paintings in 1927, after a very successful exhibition at the Galerie Charpentier in Paris. This gallery proposed another exhibition two years later for which I had planned to complete The Alphabet. Unfortunately, I was much too optimistic. I had not realized how much other work I would have to do at the same time. There was my contract with Harper's Bazaar... and for the theater. The result was that in 1929, when my second exhibition opened, The Alphabet had not made much progress. From then on, little by little, I did complete one or two letters between various urgent commissions, but it was only forty years later that I finished the set. In 1967 (I was asked to) exhibit The Alphabet at an Erté show in London. This time I was ready - or at least I thought I was. While preparing to send the pictures to London, I suddenly noticed to my astonishment that one letter was missing in the series; it was the letter "L". I began to paint it immediately and completed it just in time for the show. As it turned out, this letter became the most successful of all in the eyes of the public."

This series is one of the rarest of all series and remain highly popular even 30 years later. Imagine a body of work from 100 years ago still in vogue in the volatile world of art and fashion?! A true testament to the artistic genius of this man aptly named the Father of Art Deco. Interestingly, Art Deco had a resurgence in popularity in the late seventies upon the release of this prints - forever cementing the title as father of this popular type of art.

Erté's Alphabet - 40 Years of Work

erte andrejkoymasky com
erte andrejkoymasky com

Erte Vase - Objects of Desire

Erte Sea Maidens Mermaids Vase photo courtesy of antiquehelper.com
Erte Sea Maidens Mermaids Vase photo courtesy of antiquehelper.com

Sea Maidens Crystal Vase

"Sea Maidens unique crystal vise was made by Erte (Russian 1892 - 1990) in collaboration with Baccarat. The Father of Art Deco and the world’s premier house of luxury crystal, respectively, beget Sea Maidens in 1985 in a limited edition of only 199 pieces. The hand-crafted Sea Maidens luxury crystal vase is adorned with judiciously sculpted gilt bronze crystal vase insert, which are attached to either side by two flared seashells. This beautiful luxury vase requires over 100 separate steps for its creation. twin mermaid handles with Baccarat hand-blown, -cut and -polished

Engraved “Erte” with copyright 1985, the vase is true unique art piece and has such dimensions: 13 1/4″H x 13 1/2″W. Harry up to buy it via Portero online luxury auction.


Enchantress - Cleopatra

Erte Print Title:  Enchantress with elaborate gold on black
Erte Print Title: Enchantress with elaborate gold on black | Source

Divine Sarah as Cleopatra

1891 Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra photo courtesy of wikipedia commons
1891 Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra photo courtesy of wikipedia commons

Cleopatra Set the Stage for His Jewelry Creations

Erté was 82 years old when he started designing jewelry. Every piece was in the spirit of his unique and distinctive Art Deco style. The origins of his art in jewelry tied directly back to his first venture in jewelry - in the theater of course in Paris, France. The set was the opulent set of Cleopatra. His main focus was armlets which were worn by Sarah Bernhardt as Cleopatra. Sarah (born October 23, 1844 - March 26th, 1923) was "the most famous actress the world has ever known" - from Paris, France to the United States and back again. She became known as the "Divine Sarah". In the United States, Erté was the costume designer for the movie Ben Hur.

Erté was also the designer of choice for many a Hollywood starlet including Joan Crawford and Lillian Gish.

Erté - The Father of Art Deco Design



Buy Erte Sculpture on Amazon | Buy Online

Erte: Art to Wear The Complete Jewelry

Erte book: "Art to Wear The Complete Jewelry"
Erte book: "Art to Wear The Complete Jewelry"

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© 2010 Kelly Kline Burnett

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Comments 18 comments

readabook profile image

readabook 6 years ago from Texas

Art deco is my favorite style and I love Erte. I so enjoyed looking at the pictures in the hub and learning more about Erte. I liked his thoughts on exercise and again I enjoyed the quotes.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

What a sense of form and style Erte had.. I love this post!!


ed77burns profile image

ed77burns 6 years ago from USA

very good arts and painting added in this hub ...love this hub toooo much...


Tapestries profile image

Tapestries 6 years ago

Yes, art deco is very stylised art that is unique in its look. I love the pendant, so stylish and detailed.


milkfrother profile image

milkfrother 5 years ago

I have always loved Erte's work, initially just as beautiful images and without knowing anything about him and later with more informed appreciation. This is an excellent hub, full of knowledge and stunning illustrations. I am amazed to learn that Erte only began to design his distinctive jewellery at an age when most people are winding down their life, if indeed they still have one. A true achievement and a lovely hub celebrating it.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

This is utterly fantastic! Thank you so much for this wonderful Hub. I knew about Art Deco but I was woefully uneducated about the man behind it: Erte. I loved your story about him and his art. This is one of the most fascinating Hubs I have read. Truly a wonderful experience. Thanks again. :D


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

@readabook,

First - I love your name and your work. I am honored that you stopped by. Erte is one of my tops. Amazing artist. The exercise is an interesting facet of Erte - Daily Discipline - love it! Strive for it! A true hero. It is also fascinating he didn't wish to shame his family - wow would his family now be proud! Love this humility.

@carolina muscle,

thank you so much!

@ed77burns,

Thank you so much!

@milkfrother,

It is interesting to note that many great artists never retire, they perfect their art and are dedicated and often push for another chapter. Jewelry is a great medium for artists.

@James A Watkins,

Your words of praise mean the world to me. I love this artist. Sadly, when I was in New Orleans I had the opportunity to purchase some Erte works of art and a I didn't. I am still kicking myself. Yet here on HubPages, I am able to collect his work on this hub and share with others such as you.

The Art Deco style is something I appreciate along with Frank Lloyd Wright - very distinctive yet peaceful - an artful creation making the world a simpler and more beautiful place to reside.

Thank you so much for stopping by.


G S 4 years ago

Definitely beautiful! I have a lovely original signed Gouache from 1951 by Erte seen here: http://imgur.com/a/0roVk#3


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing! Erte is very special. I feel Erte has not been fully appreciated. Erte is timeless yet very modern - what contrasts and delights in a soothing color palate and also form. From paintings to sculpture.


Debbie Meek 3 years ago

How much is the Alouette ring by Erte?


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

Hi Debbie,

I added in some links for Erte jewelry for both Amazon and eBay. It appears eBay has a very similar ring for around $200.

A museum quality piece appears currently available at Ruby Lane:

http://www.rubylane.com/item/490404-ERTEALOUETTE/S...

This item is around $2000, it is signed and original and absolutely exquisite piece of jewelry - you have a good eye for high quality.

I am so glad you asked. I sadly left out any links for jewelry so I updated this hub to include the really fun shopping items.

Thank you so much for stopping by and contributing.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

readabook,

The history of Erte is truly fascinating.An artist with very clear beliefs on art and on life.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

Carolina Muscle,

You are absolutely correct, he was certainly talented. Thank you so much for the accolades - I greatly appreciate it.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

ed77burns,

This hub took allot of time to compile and research but Erte has been a passion of mine for years so it was a labor of love. I hope others have a new appreciation for this great artist.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

From the fashion forwardness to the jewelry to the advertising or magazine covers, the breadth of mediums he applied his craft is really remarkable. I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans years ago and the art boutiques were so warm and gracious in welcoming us in our casual attire and yet they had the most stunning Erte statues and artwork. I was absolutely mesmerized.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

milkfrother,

You bring up a great point, he had the energy and drive to continue into a completely different artistic medium at an age when most are winding down. He is truly an inspiration for all of us.


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

James,

Wow! I am thrilled with your enthusiasm. You who has a high standard of art appreciation never cease to amaze me. I have vowed someday to do a hub similar to your about art in my home. It is still on my list - and you are my inspiration!


GmaGoldie profile image

GmaGoldie 3 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin Author

Debbie,

Here is a museum quality piece from Ruby Lane that is around $2000.

http://www.rubylane.com/item/490404-ERTEALOUETTE/S...

At the moment, there is a fantastic ring that is beautiful also in that same style out on eBay - it is around $200.

I have updated the hub to include more links for the Erte jewelry for you and future readers.

Great question. You have a good eye for high design. That ring is very beautiful and would complement many people and go with almost any fashion.

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