Monday, February 21, 2011

Romain de Tirtoff, aka Erté (initials R.T. pronounced in French)

Art by Erté- title unknown- image of a woman with a falcon

I was showing my neighbor my art deco-d homework from illustration, and he ran into his apartment and came back out with a book about the illustrator Erté. I'm pretty sure that I've seen images by this artist before, but I never knew the artists name. Crazy fun stuff! He was born in Russia to a wealthy aristocratic family, just before the revolution, and got started designing dresses at home, and apprenticing with a portraitist. He decided to focus on drawing and painting for his career, but he dabbled in fashion design, sculpture, jewelry, and all sorts of other things. Most of his illustrations seem to be influenced by his love of fashion, because they are more about the clothes than the women wearing them. The women are simplified and elongated to better set off the wild, curvy, flowing garments. They remind me a little of what the fashion models of today look like; emaciated stick figures that are basically glorified clothes hangers. Still, I love that the delicate hands, feet and little peaks of faces poking out from big fur coats almost make the women seem like they are additional ornament to the clothing, or in instances where you see more skin, the outlines of the body mimic the flow of the line of cloth so well that they almost become the same form.

His images rarely have backgrounds, and when they do they are either vast expanses of color, or simplified environments made up of shapes which are solid colors. The figures too are made up of large flat shapes of color, ornamented with thin light designs frequently in gold and silver paint. The flow of the lines of drapery in the garments is ruled more by the form and flow of design, and not at all by gravity. His Harper's Bazar covers in particular, geometricize the figures so much, they almost look cubist. In my minds eye I can see them fitting in stunningly alongside sans serif blocks of text laid out in the " New Typography" style of the time, and I imagine he was favored greatly among designers.


  1. His treatment of the textile is downright decadent. I love the neoclassical nature of the pose and the clothing... It all seems very heroic and timeless. I concur that designers must have loved to work with his stuff. The solid colors are so clean yet the shapes are really elegant and refined.

  2. I like the cutout style in this image. What I think works best is the composition. The sun is centered, surrounded by the women to the left and the growing tidal waves on the right. I also like how the birds curve around towards the women to create this diamond-like shape around the sun. The sun ray lines help to balance out the top of the image with the bottom. It is a very heroic piece.