I enjoy seeing these images and reading about them. Stephan, however, lives the walk and talks the talk.
He is immersed in the world of art deco and Erte. Stephan lives in Oregon, but later this month, he will be in New York to give a special presentation for The Ziegfeld Society. How I wish I was available for that! He will be talking about Erte and especially Erte's involvement with The Ziegfeld Follies.
Stephan and I sat down to explore his world today and to get a glimpse into his upcoming event on April 26th.
Stephan's love for this world began when he was a kid. His grandmother had certain items in her home that Stephan liked.
This was before Art Deco even had a name. The term "art deco" wasn't even coined until around 1968. At the time, Stephen just referred to it as "Grandma's stuff."
As he got older, he developed an interest in art history. That led to an interest in art deco because art deco was the first style of art and design that had incorporated all previous styles of art.
There is Egyptian style art deco as well as Greek style and Roman style (which is called Greco Deco). There is Asian and South Pacific Art Deco. Art Deco was truly the first type of international art. It had the ability to adapt itself to whatever area or region or country it was in.
Erte is probably the most famous and well artist to come out of this genre. Stephan attributes that to the fact that Erte lived such a long life. He was also part of OUR lifetime.
With the media and publicity of our time, that made him more famous later in life than he actually was working during the twenties and thirties.
Stephan's real immersion in this world began in his early twenties. A resurgence in the world of art deco really began to take off with the release of the film, Bonnie and Clyde, in 1967. The movie became very popular and sort of changed fashion for women. The "Bonnie" look was very in and popular thanks to Faye Dunaway (and, of course, costume designer Theadora Van Runkle).
Around the same time, musicians started incorporating twenties tunes. I very much remember Winchester Cathedral at that time.
Winchester Cathedral was released in late 1966 by Fontana Records, whereupon it shot to the #1 spot in Canada on the RPM 100 national singles charts and shortly thereafter in the U.S. on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It was released by The New Vaudeville Band, a British novelty group established by the song's composer, Geoff Stephens. Stephens was a big fan of tunes from the British music hall era (or what Americans would call "vaudeville"), so he wrote "Winchester Cathedral" in that vein, complete with a Rudy
The Mamas and the Papas had a huge hit with Dream a Little Dream of Me which was also from the twenties.Tribute bands like the Pasadena Roof Orchestra began to form.
|The Spirit of the Opal|
A private commission to represent the client's birthstone, Artist: Stephan)
There was also a new crop of younger architects coming in who were doing new kinds of art deco things and going back to the twenties and thirties for inspiration. You would see little touches here and there from new buildings that were going up.
It was an homage to
|Art Deco Society of Los Angeles|
There are art deco societies in major cities all over the world. People join them for different reasons. The main goal of the art deco societies is education and preservation of buildings. They try to generate to the general public and people in politics why these buildings should not be torn down. Look at all the gorgeous movie palaces that we have lost over the years. Finally, it has dawned on some that these buildings can still be used.
All of this is both a full time career and a sideline for Stephan. He became involved with the Art Deco Society of California, which is in San Francisco, where he was living in the early eighties. They were formed in 1984.He had heard about them when he saw a flyer in an antique store that carried a lot of art deco items. He called them and they invited him to one of their board meetings. He made a presentation of his portfolio of things he had been doing for several years. The board members went off into a corner and all that Stephan could hear was loud whispering.
They came back and asked him if he
|The Spirit of the Emerald|
A private commission to represent the client's birthstone (Artist Stephan )
He designed their logo. He designed their preservation award which is presented every year at the Art Deco Preservation Ball. Every so often, he has gotten to design a gown for one or two of the ladies in the Society.
Hus favorite art deco building is the Chanin Building here in New York.
The Chanin Building is a brick and terra-cotta skyscraper located at 122 East 42nd Street, at the corner of Lexington Avenue, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Built by Irwin S. Chanin in 1929, it is
|The Chanin Building in NY|
The highlights of Stephan's involvement in this world are the times that he spent with Erte.
They met several times, usually at art galleries that were exhibiting Erte's work usually in celebration of his birthday. They first met on Erte's 87th Birthday. It was at Circle Gallery in Los Angeles. Stephan had become friendly with the gallery director and she had seen Stephan's art and knew that one of the things that he was trying to do was carry on the art deco legacy. Stephan had written to Erte about two months prior saying that
|Stephan with his display of Erté memorabilia.|
Erte's manager had set up this big butan chair at the back of the gallery. The manager and the gallery had planned on no one speaking to Erte. He was just going to be a presence there. There were so many people that that plan did not work. Everyone was going up to Erte and talking to him. Erte was loving it all. Every once in a while, Stephan would go to his portfolio and pull out a few things and
|Erte as a young man (courtesy Stephan Artist)|
Every year for the Art Deco Ball, Stephan would design a limited edition poster. For that year, it was a tribute to Erte. Stephan took one to Erte wrapped up very nice. During that evening, at the art gallery in New York, Erte and Stephan went into an office room in the back and Stephan presented the poster to him as a birthday present. Erte opened it up and
Talk about passing the baton! Stephan's heart was going pitter pat!
On the 26th of April, audiences will be able to see and learn much more when Stephan appears with The Ziegfeld Society here in New York.
Stephan knew about The Ziegfeld Society and contacted them. He had originally contacted the Art Deco Society of New York. One of his Facebook friends is on their board. His friend suggested that Stephan come out east and do a lecture. Stephan contacted the person in charge and was quickly dismissed. Basically, he was told that all of their members knew everything there was to know about art deco and Erte. He was told that because of that, their members would be bored. Instead of being defeated, Stephan contacted Mark York of The Ziegfeld Society. Mark is their president. Mark jumped at the opportunity. This is the first time that The Ziegfeld Society is going to have a speaker that is not speaking about an entertainer or musician. Stephan is the first to discuss an actual
Stephan tells me that the relationship between Erte and Ziegfeld was not a good one. Ziegfeld was very excited about having Erte design for him. Erte was such a star designer at the time for the Follies Bergere in Paris.
Ziegfeld was excited that he was able to get Erte to design various scenes and tableaux for The Ziegfeld Follies of 1923. However, Ziegfeld was about "glorifying the American girl" and showing off the women's figure and Erte's costumes had a tendency to be very drapy, hiding all the curves and Ziegfeld did not like that. Even though the public was very much delighted with Erte's designs, Ziegfeld was not, and he never used him again. Erte developed a very strong relationship later on with George White of the George White Scandals and ended up designing seven productions.
In 1925, Erte spent almost an entire year in Hollywood designing for MGM which had just been formed. Louis B. Mayer had bought Erte out from Paris and he was hoping that Erte would be his main production designer in charge of designing or overseeing the costumes for MGM films. Even though Erte was excited about working in Hollywood, he could only do so much in film. He had more freedom and flexibility on the stage.
Hollywood turned out to be a very frustrating time for him. He wasn't used to working with movie people. Movie people weren't used to working with very famous designers. Even though he did a lot of wonderful things at MGM, he couldn't stand the pace and the attitudes and all that that entailed. He had a bad encounter with Lillian Gish, for one, designing costumes for the movie, La Boheme.She was playing Mimi, the seamstress, who was supposed to be very poor. Erte designed her costumes out of cheap wools and cottons. Miss Gish went to him and told him that she was sorry, but her skin could only tolerate the finest silks to come in contact with every pore.
Stephan tells me that he does all of this because this is all he knows how to do. People are always complementing him, not only on his art, but also on his entertaining and singing and directing shows and designing shows. He is often asked if there is anything he doesn't do. He always steals Barbra Streisand's line from Hello, Dolly!, " If you're going to live from hand to mouth, you better be ambidextrous".
There are many innovations that Erte made in his lifetime that people don't know about. He designed the one
|The North Sea costume for The George White Scandals|
Stephan is hoping to impart a little bit of theatre history to those lucky enough to spend the afternoon with him and The Ziegfeld Society on April 26th.
Please GO! I wish I could!!
Erté recollections by Ellen Easton
My maternal great- grandfather's cousin was Iva Pactevitch, the CEO of Conde Nast. NY TIMES, "Mr. Nast was taken with him and in 1928, named Mr. Patcevitch as his personal assistant. Mr. Nast's last wish before dying in 1942 was that Mr. Patcevitch be named his successor as president. He became chairman of the executive committee in 1942 and retired in 1971.
|Iva Pactevitch, the CEO of Conde Nast. (Courtesy: Life Magazine)|
|Reva Paul 1947|
My impression of Erte, while a small, rather shy and unassuming man, once he began to discuss his art he lit up in conversation. Having admired the work of Erte since my childhood, to have the opportunity to not only meet him but to discuss his craft was a mini master class for which I feel very privileged.
More about the Art Deco Society of California and Stephan Artist can be found at http://www.artdecosociety.org/stephan
|Erte and Carmel Myers in her Ben-Hur costume|
You will hear songs from the various famous revues that Erté designed.....The Ziegfeld Follies of 1923, George White Scandals, The Hollywood Revue of 1929.
|La Traviata costume (Courtesy: Stephan)|
|Erte with Barbra Streisand (Courtesy: Stephan)|
Singers from West Chester University from West Chester University performing in this show as well as New York artists.
This will be their first presentation featuring a designer from The World of Florenz Ziegfeld. So you won't want to miss it.
They will be raffling off various Stephan posters and will have a display of original Erté sketches and artwork.
Tickets are already on sale online. So get your tickets now!
Erté - The Life and Art of Erté
Saturday, April 26th 3:30 - 5:30pm (doors open at 3:00pm)
Lang Hall at Hunter College 69th Street Entrance
|Erte in the 1980s (Courtesy: Stephan)|
$15 - Non-members PURCHSE TICKETS ONLINE at www.theziegfeldsociety.com or mail your check to: The Ziegfeld Society
400 East 58th Street, Suite 16C New York, NY 10022
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Let's start celebrating artists again rather than tearing them down.
Thank you ALL of the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,
A Testimonial from Richard Skipper's most recent event
|with Anita Gillette, Penny Fuller, and KT Sullivan|
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|Aileen Pringle in The Mystic|