Artist: Romain de Tirtoff (Erté)
Born: 23 November 1892, St Petersburg, Russia
Movement: Art Deco
Died: 21 April 1990, Paris, France
Romain de Tirtoff better known by the pseudonym Erté was an artist and designer of the Art Deco movement. He was well-known in several fields, including jewellery design, fashion, graphic art, costume and set design for theatre, film, and opera and interior design. Erté was born Roman Petrovich Trytov, the son of an admiral in the Russian Fleet. The Tyrtov was a distinguished family with roots tracing back to 1548 and a Tatar Khan named Trytov. His own father served as an admiral in the Russian Fleet.
Erté lived in Paris during 1907 and produced one of his first sculptures Demoiselle à la balancelle. Despite the lack of precision compared to his other sculptures it is Art Nouveau. Erté, himself, considered the piece so minor it didn’t appear in his biography but the cartouche on the back indicates ‘Erté Paris 1907’ in a triangle.
Despite opposition from his father, who wanted his son to continue the family tradition of a naval career, Erté moved to Paris to pursue a career as a designer. He lived with Prince Nicolas Ouroussoff up until the prince’s death in 1933. He assumed the pseudonym of Erté to avoid disgracing the family.
Erté is well known for his elegant fashion designs which capture the Art Deco period. He found early success designing for the French dancer Gaby Deslys. His sophisticated, glamourous designs and delicate figures are still instantly recognisable and influence fashion now in the 21st century.
Louis B Mayer brought Erté to Hollywood to design sets and costumes for the silent film Paris. Due to script problems he was also given other assignments and designed for other films such as The Mystic, Dance Madness, Time, and Ben Hur. He also designed the set and costumes for the film The Restless Sex starring Marion Davies.
His best-known image is Symphony in Black, a much-reproduced image of a stylized tall and slender woman in black drapery holding a thin black dog on a leash.
Working throughout his life designing for revues, ballets and operas, Erté’s career had a major rejuvenation in the 1960s with the Art Deco revival at which point we branched into the realm of limited-edition prints, bronzes and wearable art.
Erté died in 1990 because of kidney disease and is buried at Cimetière de Boulogne-Bilancourt ,Boulogne-Billancourt, Île-de-France, France
©JG Farmer 2019