Romain de Tirtoff was born on November 23, 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia. His fashion career began at the age of six when his mother had a dress made from one of his first sketches. Arriving in Paris in 1912, he was armed with little more than his determination to become a successful fashion designer. In part, to ensure privacy for his family, who were still in Russia, Romain began using his initals as an acronym. RT, as pronounced in both French and Russian, became Erte.
Erte's rise to prominence in the world of international fashion began at the fashion house of Paul Poiret where he did occassional modeling of his own dress designs. As WWI began to take its effect on Europe, many of the great fashion houses shut down and Erte was forced to turn his creative efforts in other directions. In 1914, he began supplying illustrations for the American magazine "Harper's Bazaar". Their working relationship ended up lasting for 22 years. His illustrations graced not only the covers but filled the pages of one of America's best known magazines of the period.
Erte also spent a good deal of his time designing theatrical costumes, some of which were used in MGM film studio productions in Hollywood. He was especially fond of the elaborate French burlesque costumes he had become so well-known for. Erte had always kept as many of his design originals as possible and was able to hold two very successful shows with his artwork before the stock market crash in 1929, which severely damaged his finances. Until the end, Erte continued to design costumes for the theater, ballet, and opera.
The Art Deco style for which Erte is credited as being the originator, saw a resurgence of popularity in the mid-sixties when Paris exhibited his "Formes Picturales", a group of painted sculptures made of various materials. A few years later, the Metropolitan Museum of Art purchased a collection of 179 works from an exhibition or Erte's works in New York. the field of limited edition graphics was essentially created by Erte, and continues to be popular to this day. At the age of 88, Erte began to work with bronze sculpture, again achieving success with another art form. He became a legend during his own lifetime, and a truly prominent figure in the progression of art and fashion.
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