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About the WorkTheatre Femina that Erté worked closely with Gaby Deslys, the greatest French music-hall star of her day. It was Madame Rasimi - the theater's founder - who discovered the young Romain de Tirtoff (Erté) and employed his talents for her theater's great benefit.
"Turquoise Dress" - the original title of the gouache - simply points to the obvious. The flowing turquoise trail cascades from the gown to create a wonderful sense of style and grace. As the primary splash of color in the design, turquoise sits in contrast to the dynamic black background of the print and the sparkling silver folds of the dress. To further the serigraph's composition, the figure is set against a geometric pattern of rectangles and squares, all deeply embossed and metal-foiled to create the perception of depth and drama.
One of the earliest costume designs by Erté, "Turquoise Dress" stood as a reflection of American culture - of riches and excess - and where, during this treasured time in the country's history, was that opulence most visible, but in California. As a result, when the silkscreen was published the name was expanded upon and became "California" (Turquoise Dress).
For Erté, "California (Turquoise Dress)" stands as a tribute to his creativity and love of theatrical design. There can be no doubt that his deepest ambition was to design for the stage. In the theater, the purpose was escapism and spectacle, which Erté synthesized in his designs through a contrast of detail and dreamlike fantasy. The early theatrical designs created by Erté are known today only through his surviving designs. The perfectionist manner, resulting from a complete mastery of technique, and the small scale precision of the compositions, express the true nature of the genius that is Erté.
About the Artist
Erté was born Romain de Tirtoff in St. Petersburg, Russia on November 23rd, 1892 and was raised amidst Russia's social elite. At the age of five he created an evening gown for his mother and managed to persuade the adults to craft it, they were astounded by the results. In 1912, Romain left St. Petersburg for Paris at the age of nineteen with the aim of becoming an artist. After working with Paul " Le Magnifique" Poiret on several theatrical productions Romain, still under the pseudonym of Erte, began to work more independently. He hand-crafted original costume and fashion designs for many of the era’s most renowned actresses, including Joan Crawford, Lillian Gish, Marion Davies, Anna Pavlova, Norma Shearer, and others. His masterpieces for the stage included extravagant production designs at venues such as New York’s Radio City Music Hall, the Casino de Paris, and the Paris Opera. In 1915 he began his long professional relationship with Harper's Bazaar and created 240 covers for the esteemed magazine. For 6 months in 1916, Erté simultaneously worked with Vogue as well. As a result of his highly publicized success, Erté would later be called the father of the ‘Art Deco’ movement.