Romain de Tirtoff, better known in the art world as Erte, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia and would become the leader of the art deco movement.
Recognized for his slender and glamorous paintings and decoration of women and fashion, Erte would not only begin the art deco movement, but would also revive it some fifty years later in the 1970s with a line of sculptures.
Erte was the son of an admiral of the Imperial Fleet, and therefore grew up in a privileged, high society life. Erte moved to Paris at the age of 18 to study art. Here, he adopted his pseudonym, which is derived from the French pronunciation of his initials, "R" and "T." It is said that Erte's father wanted him to be marine officer, and that he adopted a false name so that he wouldn't bring shame to his family.
The height of Erte's popularity was reached in the 1920s, and to this day, he is perhaps the most recognizable artist from this era. Erte created a style all his own, and there has yet to be another artist quite like him. This style echoed the glamour of the "Roaring Twenties" in a way that no other artist could equal.
Not just a painter, Erte worked in fashion for French designer Paul Poiret, and also worked in stage design. Erte also created ceramics and statues and illustrated nearly 250 covers for Harper's Bazaar.
Erte also traveled to the United States to create costumes for the epic film "Ben Hur." Erte was also in high demand as a fashion designer for a number of Hollywood's leading ladies, including Lillian Gish and Joan Crawford.
Today, Erte's work is housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York as well as at the Smithsonian.
Erte was well known and in-demand in his lifetime, so it is not likely that Erte ever had to sell any of his paintings or sketches in desperation. He lived to be nearly 100 years old, continued to work well into the 1980s. However, his line of sculptures, created only in the 1970s, is still highly collectible and is quite valuable. Many of Erte's paintings were turned into lithographs in series of 300 or more, which also makes it very possible for anyone to own his work.
While most of Erte's more famous paintings are owned in public museums and collections, one of his lost art deco beauties could still be hanging in someone's home, unauthenticated and otherwise unknown.