Romain de Tirtoff (November 23, 1892 – April 21, 1990) was a Russian-born French artist and designer known by the pseudonym Erté, the French pronunciation of his initials, R.T.
In 1910–12 Romain moved to Paris, France, to pursue a career as a designer. In 1915 he got his first substantial contract with Harper’s Bazaar magazine, and went on to an illustrious career that included designing costumes and stage sets.
Erté is perhaps most famous for his elegant fashion designs which capture the art deco period in which he worked. His delicate figures and sophisticated, glamorous designs are instantly recognizable, and his ideas and art influence fashion into the 21st century. His costumes and sets were featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, many productions of the Folies Bergère, and George White’s Scandals. In 1925, Louis B. Mayer brought him to Hollywood to design sets and costumes for a film called Paris. There were many script problems so Erte was given other assignments to keep him busy. He designed for such films as Ben-Hur, The Mystic, Time, the Comedian, Dance Madness and La bohème.
By far his best known image is Symphony in Black, depicting a tall, slender woman draped in black holding a thin black dog. The influential image has been reproduced and copied countless times.
Erté continued working throughout his life designing revues, ballets and operas. He had a major rejuvenation and much lauded interest in his career during the 1960s with the art deco revival. He branched out into the realm of limited edition prints, bronzes and art to wear. Museums around the world purchased dozens of his paintings for their collections.
A sizeable collection of work by Erté can be found at Museum 1999 in Tokyo.
“A resourceful woman who is almost downright plain can achieve the reputation of a beauty simply by announcing to everybody she meets that she is one.”