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George Barbier : Painter and Illustrator. Student of J. P. Laurens at the Beaux-Arts and exhibited at the Salon des Humoristes in 1910 under the name of Edouard William. The following year he began working with at the gallery of Boutet de Monvel. From 1912 to his death he regularly figured into Salon des Artistes Décorateurs and was recipient of many prizes for his works. He contribuyted to Gazette du Bon Ton, le Jardin des Dames et des Modes, Modes et Manières d'Aujourd'hui, Les Feuillets d'Art, Fémina, Vogue, and Comoedia Illustré.

He illustrated catalogues, publicity and numerous books by Baudelaire, Th. Gautier, P. Louÿs, Musset, Verlaine.

He created a number décors and costumes for the music-hall and the Folies Bergere through the Max Weldy Studios. the theatre and the cinema. He is credited with the costume, for Rudolph Valentino in the movie Monsieur Beaucaire.

The influences of antique vase paintings, Indian miniatures and even Aubrey Beardsley deeply marked his precise and elegant style typical of the Art Déco style of which he was certainly a leading figure. His exquisite illustrations that capture the mood, fashion and atmosphere of the 'Roaring Twenties'

Barbier¹s carrear really started inn 1912 at 30. He worked for satirical journals of the period like Le Rire and La Baïonnette. Then for the top fashion journals: La Gazette du Bon Ton to which he contributed original designs, illustrations and text and which was eventually purchased by Vogue in 1925.The last illustration Barbier did for the Gazette before 1920 was of a collection of dresses sent by the French government to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915. While hostilities stopped in 1918, Barbier's regular job with the Gazette did not resume until 1920.

Barbier was also one of many artists who made a living illustrating limited "editions de luxe", intended to be collectors items due to their limited circulation and high standards of printing. A mania for these books swept France in the teens and twenties Classics and contemporary works illustrated by the leading artists of the day, often bound in lavish, specially designed bindings, were eagerly collected; societies of bibliophies were founded in the cities and towns of France so that subscribers could be sure of obtaining the latest publications, numerous enough to warrant a lengthy column in the magazine "L'Amour de l'Art" each month devoted entirely to the subject. Guy Arnoux, George Barbier, Leon Benigni, Benito, Robert Banfils, Pierre Bissaud, Brunelleschi, Etienne Brian, Georges Lepape, Charles Martin, and Andre Marty found a lucrative demand for contributions which brought a considerable amount of prestige. The first book of this kind done by Barbier, in 1913, was an album of drawings of Nijinsky, the dancer, done in his various roles in the Ballets Russes. Nineteen hundred and fourteen saw a similar album of Karsavina. These drawings were mostly in black and white, and it is in these pictures that the similarity to Beardsley's style is most evident. After these albums, Barbier seemed to pull away from this style, using more color and less outlining to make his graphic statements.

By 1923 Barbier was designing costumes for the The Folies Bergère through the costume house of Max Weldy. He designed a production of Cassanova, the plates of which now are in the Victoria and Albert Museum.

As the publication of limited editions added to Barbier's artistic prestige at home, this international design pooling added to his prestige abroad. Consequently both Barbier and Erte were asked to design for American movies in 1924. While Erte went to Hollywood to costume a number of movies, (including the American segments of Ben Hur), Barbier stayed in Paris and sent his designs for his movie project to New York where they were made up by Brooks.

Barbier's designs, although not so exotic as Erte's, they are certainly as lavish. Barbier continued to work for Weldy it seems, since he co-designed an operetta, The Red Robe, in New York through the studio's far flung "mail order" business.

The lavish "The Crystal Cave" costumes to the revue In Full Folly. This was followed in 1924 by "The Nile Legend", "Paris During the Directoire", "Napoleon at Malmaison", and "The Victims Ball" for Hearts in Folly,23 in 1926 by "A Fete at Versaille" and "On Change" for The Follies of the Day,24 and in 1927 by "A Hotel of the Reign of Louis XIII" and "The Same in 1927" for A Breeze of Folly.

The last show that I can find Barbier worked on was Paris Shakes at the Casino de Paris with Josephine Baker. He contributed the costumes and decor for the "Bird of the Forest"tableaux, probably also built by the Weldy Studio. The poster for the review, by Zig, another designer, may show Josephine Baker's "Bird" costume, as its headdress is very similar to a previous Barbier design for the "The Crystal Cave" of 1923.


George Barbier, French (1882-1932)
Original Works for Sale - Click to View.

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