Louis Icart

When Louis Icart returned to Paris after his service in the infantry in the Great War of 1914-18 the art and fashion world were about to effervesce into the accute stylishness of art deco. Icart was to become one of those artists, and he was already much influenced by the profession of fashion design, who would both picture the era and in doing so would make his own contribution to its distinctive visual style.

Louis was born in 1880 in Toulouse, Southern France. His father was a banker and wished him to follow in his footsteps, but Louis became increasingly fascinated by the arts, initially with a love of the theatre. In 1907 he made the move to Paris where he developed his skills in fine art, through drawing and painting and also through learning print making. This latter medium was to become tremendously important for Icart’s career. His etchings became increasingly popular in Europe and the USA giving him an iconic status in respect to the art deco era, a status that remains to this day.

His active participation in the creation of fashion design married well with his increasingly independent expression of the female figure, absolutely the source of his inspiration and the main subject of his art. The clothes often play an important part in the composition, whether his model is fully clothed or, as sometimes later in his career, less so, and even when the apparel is scanty – style is the essence; and the style was art deco. So, for Icart, these factors converge: his love of drawing, of the female form, of fashion in feminine clothing, and most opportune for the expression of these, this onset of the art deco period with its huge flair, its innovation in clothes for women and its eroticism.

Icart was stylistically an independent figure, but had his influences, notably the French Roccoco painters, Watteau, Fragonnard and Boucher. These are artists who had aims and preoccupations similar to his own: the female subject, her clothes, beauty and style, though, of course, manifesting in a style of a previous era.

Louis lived in New York for a period in the 1920s where he also achieved considerable professional success. In 1914 he had married Fanny Volmers a beautiful and lively eighteen year old, often a model for the figure in his pictures. It was a marriage that lasted. He died in Paris in 1950. His pictures, particularly his etchings, which he used to colour individually by hand, remain very evident in the art world and as formost examples of the artistic style of the period.

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