There’s a particularly iconic series of Erté artworks that you’ve no doubt seen before: a woman – swathed in fur and adorned with a headpiece, cutting a silhouette that’s since become the recognisable epitome of Art Deco decadence – walks a lithe, silver-collared greyhound with all the drama of one who’s just walked onto a stage. Like much of Erté’s work it sweeps the viewer up into another era. One where opulence ruled; one that’s again being looked to as inspiration for 2012’s fashions.
Erté’s most prolific time as an artist was during the 1920s and 30s. With a swirl of exotic influences including European Orientalist art, Byzantine mosaics, Greek vases, and Egyptian motifs, his illustrations remain inspirational for both the artistic and the fashionable.
Erte’s own penchant for decadence and theatricality is described in an article by Jenny Hendrix at The Paris Review:
Along with many of the era’s most stylish women — Sarah Bernhardt, Joan Crawford, and Lillian Gish among them — Erté often wore his own designs, most famously a toreador outfit of gold lamé which he donned for an opera ball in Paris in 1926. He told Time magazine in 1982: “That night, the huge cape I designed was completely lined with fresh red roses which I tossed, one by one, at my audience as I descended the grand staircase.” Theatrics aside, Erté worked diligently on his art. In 1915, he began contributing drawings to Harper’s Bazaar, for which he would eventually create 250 covers over twenty-two years.
The erotic in Erté’s art is subtle, but that may be the only element to which the adjective could be applied. The pieces are drenched in exoticism and rich, saturated color and texture.
Gucci’s Hard Deco collection for the spring 2012 season was inspired by “the opulence of the era of hedonism”, as was the soon-to-be-revived The Great Gatsby – so perhaps it’s high time to take some inspiration directly from the era in question. You can view more examples of Erte’s work at the gallery above.
Images: Wiki Paintings.