Romain de Tirtoff ERTÉ (1892 - 1990)
L’Invitation à la Valse: A Proposed Cover Illustration for Harper’s Bazaar Magazine Sold
Pen and black ink and gouache, over traces of an underdrawing in pencil, within a painted border in silver, on board.
Signed Erté in yellow gouache at the lower right centre.
Inscribed by the artist N 3.274 / “L’Invitation à la Valse” / Couverture N 220 / pour la copie de Novembre 1936 on the reverse of the board.
Stamped with the artist’s stamp Composition originale / ERTÉ / ROMAIN DE TIRTOFF on the reverse of the board.
330 x 251 mm. (13 x 9 7/8 in.) [image]
376 x 273 mm. (14 3/4 x 10 3/4 in.) [board]
Apart from his work of Harper’s Bazaar, Erté also provided cover drawings and illustrations for the French magazines Art et Industrie, L’Illustration, Fémina, La Gaulois artistique and Plaisir de France, as well as The Sketch and the Illustrated London News in England.
As noted on the reverse of the backing board, this gouache was intended for the November 1936 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, but seems never to have been used. In fact, it was around the end of that year that Erté’s longstanding relationship with Harper’s Bazaar began to founder. In 1933 the magazine had hired a new editor-in-chief, Carmel Snow, and a new art director, Alexey Brodovich, who between them significantly changed the look of Harper’s. Snow’s aim was to modernize the magazine, with a new emphasis on photography in particular and a rethinking of the front cover. As Rosalind Ormiston has written, ‘Erté stated that Harper’s Bazaar editor Carmel Snow ‘not only wanted to supervise my work, but to impose her own ideas’ on it. For a man who never let anyone watch him work, apart from his cat (or cats) this must have been a blow. She had decided to ‘abridge his freedom of action’, he said. He tried to acquiesce, and carried on for a short time, giving her choices of cover drawings. But it signalled the end of Erté’s liaison with the magazine, which ended in 1937.’ By March 1937 a new cover artist, the French poster artist Adolphe Meuron, known as Cassandre, was in regular employment at the magazine, largely replacing Erté.
Mary Shoucair Kettaneh, New York.