August 12, 2015

It's All About Artist Erté at the MET

Jason Kontos discusses the importance of seeing the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exhibition on French artist Erté's designs for shoe manufacturer Delman.

by Jason Kontos

Erté in his studio in Monte Carlo, the walls of which are covered in his drawings, 1917. Reproduction of a black and white photograph used in the pamphlet for his exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery, New York, held June 7-July 1, 1967.
Please see below for photo credits.

I remember the heady days of my youth with nostalgia. It was a period where the streets of New York City offered a playground for the creative. I was just commencing my career as an interior designer and an editor for various shelter magazines. Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith were formulating their paths, Lou Reed was an East Village fixture, and Andy Warhol was promoting a series of multimedia shows featuring the music of the Velvet Underground. But amidst this vibrant scene, I couldn't help looking backward at the work of the artist known as Erté. I refer to him as an artist because during his time (1892–1990), he dominated a number of fields. He flourished in everything from fashion, to graphic arts (he designed 240 covers for Harper's Bazaar), and set designs for film (including the iconic film Ben-Hur), theatre, and opera.

And so it was to my supreme delete to learn that the Metropolitan Museum of Art is currently showcasing a small

Please see below for photo credits.

selection of Erté's designs in honor of the 25th anniversary of his death. The exhibition consists of shoe designs Erté conceptualized for the shoe manufacturer Herman Delman. While only the gouaches appear to have survived, they easily showcase the artistry behind each shoe—comfort and quality melded with stunning, functional works of art for a night out on the town. It is truly a moving show and serves as a concrete reminder to all to pursue their own dreams. Romain de Tirtoff, or Erté, was expected to follow in his family's footsteps and join the navy. Rather, the designer took on his now famous pseudonym (Erté), to avoid disgracing the family and instead graced design (and shoe) aficionadas with a visionary mind. Go see the show!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is located at 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82nd Street). The exhibit is currently on view in the Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Gallery.

Second image, top left: Left: Erté (Romain de Tirtoff) (French [born Russia], 1892-1990). Black Pump with Silver-Fluted Heel and Beads for Delman's Shoes, New York, 1934. Gouache; sheet: 14 15/16 x 11 in. (37.9 x 28 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Martin Foundation Inc. Gift, 1967 (67.762.18). © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Right: Erté (Romain de Tirtoff) (French [born Russia], 1892-1990). Red Pump with Triangular Openwork for Delman's Shoes, New York, 1934. Gouache; sheet: 14 13/16 x 10 13/16 in. (37.6 x 27.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Martin Foundation Inc. Gift, 1967 (67.762.21). © 2015 Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York.

Third image, top right: Delman (American, founded 1919). Evening shoes, 1935. Silk, leather, plastic, rhinestones; 7 1/2 x 9 in. (19.1 x 22.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Herman Delman, 1955 (2009.300.1207a, b).