Romain de Tirtoff [1892-1990] was a Russian-born French painter and designer known by the pseudonym Erté, a French pronunciation of initials R.T. Tirtoff was born as Roman Petrov de Tyrtov [Роман Петрович Тыртов] in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire in a very distinguished family with roots traced back to 1548.
His father Pyotr Ivanovich de Tyrtov was a Fleet Admiral. In 1910-1912 Romain moved to Paris to pursue a career as a designer. This decision was made over strong objections of his father, who wanted Romain to continue a family tradition and to become a naval officer. Romain assumed the pseudonym to avoid disgracing the family. In 1915 he got his first significant contract with Harper's Bazaar magazine, and he went on to an illustrious career that included designing costumes and stage sets. Erté is perhaps most famous for his elegant fashion designs which capture the art deco period in which he worked. His delicate figures and sophisticated, glamorous designs are instantly recognizable, and his ideas and art influence fashion into the 21st century.
His costumes and sets were featured in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, many productions of the Folies Bergère, and George White's Scandals. In 1925, Louis B. Mayer brought him to Hollywood to design sets and costumes for a film called Paris. There were many script problems so Erte was given other assignments to keep him busy. He designed for such films as Ben-Hur, The Mystic, Time, the Comedia, Dance Madness, and La Bohème. By far his best known image is Symphony in Black, depicting a tall, slender woman draped in black holding a thin black dog. The influential image has been reproduced and copied countless times.Erté continued working throughout his life designing revues, ballets and operas. He had a major rejuvenation and much lauded interest in his career during the 1960s with the art deco revival. He branched out into the realm of limited edition prints, bronzes and art to wear. Museums around the world purchased dozens of his paintings for their collections. A sizeable collection of work by Erté can be found at Museum 1999 in Tokyo.