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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Erte: Fashion, Modernism, and Fine Art

Personal property appraisers often work with several categories of objects, from sports memorabilia to fine art objects. However, sometimes appraisers come across objects that transcend a single category. These types of objects are often highly interesting and can be highly valuable because they are collectible for so many reasons. A great example is the work of Romain de Tirtoff, better known by his pseudonym Erte.

Erte, known as a graphic artist and dress designer, was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, but moved to Paris, France between 1910 and 1912 to explore a career in fashion. He had his artistic breakthrough as a dress designer for the couture house of Paul Poiret. Being a dress designer Erte made fashion sketches for his work. Eventually these creations would take on a life of their own, so that Erte was making prints that portrayed whole scenes in which a fully realized figure would be shown wearing Erte designs within a stylized setting. Erte was able to use his talent as a graphic artist to create works that not only led to fashion designs but were also art objects in there own right.

Erte’s work is, therefore, highly collectible for numerous reasons. They are collectible as fashion items because they show the development of Erte’s designs. For example, some of his early drawings eventually led to clothes that would have been produced by one of the great fashion houses of the early 20th century. His drawings, paintings, and prints are also historical documents because they are linked to the modernist age, and are a prime example of how society was changing, even in terms of dress. This is due to Erte’s connection to Paul Poiret, who is known for liberating women from the restraining corset; and instead designing items that were loose fitting, allowing for greater female mobility. Upon examining Erte’s drawing, shown to the left, you can see this approach to dress. We see a woman, in loose fitting pants, moving in a fluid manner. It demonstrates a style of dress, which allows an active movement. Finally, these drawings are interesting fine art objects. Regardless of the fashion or cultural connection they can stand alone as visually appealing. Each exhibits fluid movement with lines that curve in combination with long strait lines; used in conjunction with vibrant colors and stylized, clearly outlined, shapes.

The work of Erte is very interesting to appraisers because it is collectible on so many levels. It has appeal to fashion enthusiasts, those interested in modernism, and collectors of fine art.
Troy, Nancy J. Couture Culture: A Study in Modern Art and Fashion. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003.
Erte [Romain de Tirtoff]. My Life / My Art: An Autobiography. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1989.

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    Chicago, Illinois, United States
    Welcome to our blog site! MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. is a fine art and personal property appraisal company dedicated to serving clients throughout the United States and abroad since our incorporation in Chicago in 1994. We specialize in the multi-faceted field of appraising fine art, jewelry, antiques, and decorative items. We also provide professional fine art restoration and conservation treatment for various media, including but not limited to, artworks on canvas, board, masonite, and paper. We offer professional and precise appraisal services carried out by our team of accredited appraisers for the purposes of insurance coverage and claims, charitable donations, estate planning and probate, equitable distribution and fair-market value. We started our art commentary blog site as a venue for colleagues and fellow art enthusiasts to share their experiences within the art community.