The only limits we have are the ones we place on ourselves. This is something I am continually reminded of. My fascination with fashion history only leads me to discover more and more incredible people that realized their full potential. One of those people is Marcel Vertès.
Marcel Vertès illustration for Elsa Schiaparelli’s perfume, Shocking. Illustration completed c. 1937. Image courtesy of McCormick Interiors.
Marcel Vertès (1895 – 1961) was a Hungarian-born artist, fashion illustrator, costume designer, and textile designer. He was most prolific from 1933 to 1952, during which he divided his time between New York and Paris.
Marcel Vertès illustration of a Lilly DachÃ¨ hat, 1943. Image courtesy of HPrints.
Vertès was a real renaissance man. His creativity seems boundless to me – he created sets for theater, illustrated for major fashion magazines, painted, and even ventured into the fashion world. He illustrated advertisements throughout his career, most notably for Elsa Schiaparelli. He also worked for major magazines, like Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. (Illustration was so prevalent during the 1940s because of rationing of supplies needed for photography. Illustrations continued to be popular in the 1950s. I really recommend looking at the work of Rene Gruau if you enjoy fashion illustrations!)
Marcel Vertès illustration for The Ballet Theatre Souvenir Program, c. 1943. Image courtesy of Meteorology.
In 1952, Vertès won two Academy Awards for his work on the film Moulin Rogue. This film was set in late 19th century Paris, and followed the career of artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec. Toulouse-Lautrec explored the nightlife in Paris, including the burlesque clubs. His Academy Awards were for Best Artistic Direction and Best Costume Design.
Later, in 1956, Vertès designed the costumes and props for the Ringling Brothers’ Circus. The costumes were wildly sexy. Critics said that Vertès had turned a family event into a “night time circus”. I’ll let you be the judge . . .
Costume design by Marcel Vertès for the John Ringling North circus, c. 1956. Image courtesy of Showbiz David.
Prior to all this erotica, Vertès had designed textiles for Wesley Simpson. Last week, I wrote a little bit about the collaboration between textile designers and artist. These collaborations were not only beautiful and interesting, but they stimulated the Postwar economy. The Metropoltian Museum of Art has several examples of Vertès’ textile designs:
Marcel Vertès textile design for for Wesley Simpson, 1944. Used for dress design by Hattie Carnegie. Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Seeing that one person could do all of this inspires me beyond words. And I hope it inspires you!