Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Power of Imagination: Will There Ever Be Another Erté?

THE POWER OF IMAGINATION: WILL THERE EVER BE ANOTHER ERTE?  Erté  was a man in love with his work, his cats (sounds nice to us!) and solitude. And his work was very modern -- considering that the first part of the 20th century in Europe was still hanging on to bits and pieces of leftovers from the Victorian era that had a longtime stranglehold on society, mores and the arts. Erté and others in the creative realm were anxious to liberate morality and the arts from all of this stuffy nonsense that had no place in a changing world that was on the brink of chaos and immense change (i.e. World War I). Theater, fashion and art were the great escapes for everyone -- and it was in these escapes that color, sensuality and the feeling that "anything goes" flourished. Because of his aristocratic upbringing, Erté's charming politeness and effete mannerisms made him extremely lovable among actors, fashion designers, opera singers and all of society throughout Europe. He captured the flamboyant Art Deco period to a T -- and the booming music halls, cinemas, new dance crazes such as the Charleston and the Black Bottom, and the rise of performer Josephine Baker all added to the excitement of the era and to Erté's vivid imagination. Add to all of this, the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb which fueled the explosion of all things Egyptian and exotic, playing into Erté's work all the more. Surprisingly, it wasn't all the new-found delights in the arts that inspired Erté -- he was actually born inspired! In his own words  he tells us, "When I was five years old, I designed an evening dress for my mother...and around her décolletage was a garland of real roses. I was absolutely enchanted." Wow! We guess that we too would be enchanted if we designed a dress for our mother (and Erté's mother had the dress sewn up, by the way). His work can be found in such museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Victoria and Albert -- and though his bronze sculptures and prints have been copied and reproduced by the masses, they are nonetheless a beauty to behold in their pure unadulterated state, so rich are they in detail and color. His influence in costume and set design is immeasurable and his imagination unparalleled. So, that begs the question "Will there ever be another Erté?"  We'll ruminate on this one and get back to you in the morning, okay?

Books on Amazon about Erté: