Friday, May 26, 2006

Romain de Tirtoff

Ha! Never heard of him. Actually, I hadn't. Ever heard of him. Until discovering that

may be for Erté,

but R. T. (pronounced en français - yes, another one -) stands for Romain de Tirtoff, the Russian artist and designer who adopted this elegant new identity when he began his career in Paris.

The first Erté prints I ever saw were on laminated plastic trays at the local market when I was about fourteen. (I think Art Deco must have been in in the mid 1970s because lots of people had a Mucha poster on the wall - and he too was celebrated in laminated kitsch! Art for the masses!)

I remember sumptuous furs on a preternaturally sinuous body, balanced by a pair of greyhounds. Neither of these, which he made in the 80s, but something very similar.

Stylish, gorgeous, witty, utterly asexual and faintly unsettling. Perhaps I had an inkling that some mysogynist was about to invent the supermodel, whose sole function was to make clothes look good on a catwalk or photoshoot with no awkward bumps to break the line, thus raising a downright silly standard for the rest of womankind, who needed to be able to sit down, get in and out of vehicles, breathe and - I know, I know, pure indulgence - eat. Damn.

Tangent alert: Spot the tangent!) Wallis Simpson, the American divorcée for whom the almost-king Edward VIII gave up the British throne in the 1930s, probably did Britain a great favour, since said throne passed to the steadier hands of George VI, and thereafter to his impressive eldest daughter Elizabeth. However(!!) for the completely bloody stupid epigram "One can never be too rich or too thin.", she and all the idiots who quoted her so merrily - - ooh! - - words fail! Of course, the poor woman was probably only joking, but still, corporate empires have been raised on the shoulders of anxious women for whom 'female' has become the 'F' word, and the desired silhouette is, well, male.

Androgyny is for the birds, ladies (not necessarily verifiable scientifically). And MANnequins. We're built curvy, and in my book, the designer whose work looks better draped from a clothes hanger than from breast and hip is in the wrong business: he should be in curtains. Can't we allow ourselves our curves? (Though on a personal note, I could wish that my only remaining concave curve was not between chin and shoulder..... sob!) Not thin. Not fat. Female! (Tangent over.)

Because of the style, I assumed that Erté himself was long gone, but as I learnt today, he was alive and well, and yet to make the prints I've put here! So here they are, and there are more prints, stage designs and sculptures at the online museum and gallery at Erté.com.

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