The Russian-born painter Romain de Tirtoff, who called himself Ertй after the French pronunciation of his initials, was one of the foremost fashion and stage designers of the early twentieth century. From the sensational silver lamй costume, complete with pearl wings and ebony-plumed cap, that he wore to a ball in 1914, to his magical and elegant designs for the Broadway musical Stardust in 1988, Ertй pursued his chosen career with unflagging zest and creativity for almost 80 years. On his death in 1990, he was hailed as the "prince of the music hall" and "a mirror of fashion for 75 years".
Born in St. Petersburg and destined by his father for a military career, Ertй confounded expectation by creating his first successful costume design at the age of five, and was
finally allowed to move to Paris in 1912, in fulfillment of his ambition to become a fashion illustrator. He soon gained a contract with the journal Harper's Bazaar, to which he continued to contribute fashion drawings for 22 years. Ertй is perhaps best remembered for the gloriously extravagant costumes and stage sets that he designed for the Folies-Bergиre 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. As well as the music-hall, Ertй also designed for the opera and the traditional theatre, and spent a brief and not wholly satisfactory period in Hollywood in 1925, at the invitation of Louis B. Mayer, head of Metro-Goldwyn-Meyer.
After a period of relative obscurity in the 1940s and 1950s, Ertй's characteristic style found a new and enthusiastic market in the 1960s, and the artist responded to renewed demand by creating a series of colorful lithographic prints and sculpture. This luxuriously illustrated museum contains a rich and representative selection of images, drawn from throughout Ertй's long and extraordinary productive career
The death of Erte in April 1990 at the age of ninety-seven brought an end to a career of extraordinary brilliance and success - or rather two careers. The first, which began when the young Russian aristocrat Romain de Tirtoff Arrived in Paris in 1912, extended through a stint in the haut couture house of Poiret and a twenty-two-year association with Harper's bazaar to the beginning of World War II. During that period, Erte Produced 250 covers for Bazaar; innumerable drawings for the magazine's pages; fashion designs for some of the world's most glamorous women; costumer and set designs for Hollywood movies and stage productions ranging from scenes in George White's Scandals and Folies-Bergere to the Paris Opera; and a variety of product designs.
Following a period of comparative eclipse during the war and its aftermath, Ertй's second career began when he met London art dealer Eric Estorick in 1967. Impressed by the huge body of superb work in the artist's Paris studio, Estorick was determined to relaunch Ertй's career. This effort was crowned with spectacular success in New York and London exhibitions of gouache paintings and drawings. As important as was the sale of pictures, the enthusiastic response of many start of theater and fashion who came to Ertй's exhibitions gave the strongest indication that there was still a keen audience for his work. Indeed, it became apparent that the demand for it by not only those able to afford originals but young people of limited means was too large to be satisfied by the existing works. This led to the decision to create multiples - first graphics and, later, bronze sculptures.
As Estorick says in his text, to characterize the success of these programs as a revival is inadequate; it was a sensation. During the twenty-five years of Ertй's second career he achieved again the level of fame that he had in an earlier generation, but with an even wider public. Those years saw also the publication of many books on Ertй's work, including two large-format books on the graphics, "Erte at Ninety" and "Erte at Ninety-Five", and one on the sculpture "Erte Sculpture".