Hungarian by birth, the young artist Marcel Vertès worked as an illustrator for various magazines in Budapest. Following WWI, he moved to Paris to study at the acclaimed Académie Julian. These were formative years for the development of his painting style as he became influenced by the avant-garde Paris art scene at the time. In 1935, he travelled to New York and had his first one-man show there two years later. Back in Paris, when fashion designer, Elsa Schiaparelli launched the campaign for her new perfume called Shocking in 1937, she asked Vertès to design the advertisements, considered somewhat bawdy and “shocking” for the industry.
In the years following WWII (Vertès and his wife departed Paris two days before the Nazi occupation), Vertès divided his time between New York and Paris. The contacts he made in America would result in many lucrative commissions throughout his career. He designed the murals (which remain today) for the Café Carlyle in the Carlyle Hotel in New York City and also the wall decoration for the Waldorf Astoria’s Peacock Alley. In 1952, his attention turned to Hollywood and in a second collaboration with Elsa Schiaparelli, he designed the costumes and sets for John Houston’s film, Moulin Rouge, which depicted the life of Toulouse Lautrec. In the film, it was Vertès who provided the drawings of Toulouse Lautrec at work as he sketched the colorful personalities of the Moulin Rouge. For his work on the film, Vertès won two Academy Awards.
Other important commissions were set designs for the Paris Opera in 1955 and for Ringling Brothers circus the following year.
Marcel Vertès died in Paris in 1961 after having lived a colorful life.