The French painter, designer, graphic artist and sculptor Erté was born in St. Petersburg on November 23, 1892. His real name was Roman Petrov de Tyrtof or, in French, Romain de Tirtoff. The pseudonym "Erté" came from his initials when pronounced in French. Erté is considered the "Father of ARTE DECO".
Beginning in 1906, he studied at the academy in St. Petersburg and in the studio Il'ja Efimovic Repin. The artist published fashion sketches in the journal Damskij mir under the pseudonyms Pitch and Tir. In 1910 he moved to Paris and later settled in Bologna-sur-Seine. In 1911, he completed his education at the Academie Julian in Paris. At the same time, he was creating drawings for the fashion designer Caroline.
In 1913, the Russian-born artist made the acquaintance of the fashion designer Paul Poiret (1879–1944). For him, he subsequently sketched models under the pseudonym Erté. Later the artist drew black ink pen vignettes for the "Gazette du Bon Ton". To begin with, Erté was occupied above all with sketching clothing, accessories, exclusive materials, posters and advertising material for US American companies; however, in 1913, he expanded his work area to include representative art. First costume designs for the Parisian Théâtre de la Renaissance and for the dancer Mata Hari (1876–1917) appeared.
Erté achieved at this point sudden prominence. During World War I, he sketched for US-American clients. Between 1915 and 1938, he worked together with the magazine "Harper's Bazaar". In 1925-26, the artist, who meanwhile had also become internationally famous, worked in Hollywood for film productions for Metro-Goldwin-Meyer. He created the elaborate and costly accouterments for the successful silent films "Paris", "Ben Hur" and "La Bohème". Thereafter Erté was once again working in Paris. Among other things, he created the "Anthropomorphe Alphabet" (1928-68); its 26 letters are formed by the female body in elegantly active poses.
As late as 1960, Erté began to work on sculptures and created abstract-fantastic, bizarre constructions out of aluminum, iron, copper and wood, which he painted in vibrant colors. In 1964, the artist presented for the first time 20 sculptures in the Galerie Ror Volkmar in Paris. In 1980, a second phase of sculpting activity followed with a comprehensive series of figurative, color patinized bronze sculptures. In addition, Erté designed jewelry, art objects and decorations up into the 1980’s, and also created illustrations for journals and magazines.
Erté died in Paris on April 21, 1990.