ERTE, Russian (1892 - 1990)
Born Remain de Tirtoff in imperial St. Petersburg, Erte derived his pen name from the French pronunciation of his initials "R.T." Over a long and distinguished career, he had a major influence on the style and design of the 20th Century.
At age 19, Erte left home and moved to Paris where he gained employment with the esteemed coutur-ier Poiret. Shortly thereafter, he began the 22-year pursuit which would make him famous: creating cover art and illustrations for the magazine Harper's Bazaar. It was here that his distinctive Art Deco-style emerged.
During his prolific years at Harper's, Erte designed 250 covers and numerous drawings for its pages and diversified into a variety of other artistic activities. After a fling in Hollywood designing for extravagant silent films including Ben Hur, Erte left the magazine to create sets and costumes for theater and opera. For the next 40 years, he dressed an extraordinary roster of opera, stage and screen stars, including Mary Garden, Josephine Baker, Marion Davies, Lillian Gish. Mata Hari and Anna Pavlova. These achievements earned him the title "Father of Art Deco".
In 1967 the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased and exhibited a collection of some 200 Erte gouaches. Shows in London followed, bringing Erte even more recognition. His success at these exhibitions was summarized by the noted London Sunday Times art critic John Russell (later of the New York Times) who wrote, "If Michelangelo were to come back from the dead he could hardly have greater or more eulogious publicity than has been accorded to Erte."
At age 75, Erte began to create limited edition serigraphs based on his designs. This medium allowed a wider audience to enjoy his work and helped satisfy popular demand for these images. International success in this endeavor led him to expand his work to a variety of materials, most notably bronze.
The influence of Erie's style and the demand for his art live on. His work belongs to prestigious museum collections throughout the world, most notably the Smithsonian, The Victoria and Albert Museum (London). New York's Metropolitan Museum and The Museum of Modern Art. Many books have been published on the artist's life and work, including Erte at Ninety-Five: The Complete New Graphics [The Extended Edition] and Erte—The Last Works.