Regarded as one of the finest French illustrators of the early twentieth century, George Barbier was born in 1882 in Nantes, France. He is famously associated with the Art Deco movement and aside from illustration, he became widely acclaimed for the design of costumes, jewelry, wallpaper, glass, and more. His work with various magazines such as Vogue cemented his reputation as a leading design artist.
Little is known of Barbier’s personal life, but it is known that he attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the atelier of Jean Paul Laurens in 1907. In 1911 at the age of twenty-nine Barbier experienced his first exhibition which launched the artist’s career. Barbier’s success began with book and magazine illustration—especially in the area of French haute couture. His exceptional fashion illustrations led to working relationships with such magazines as Gazette du Bon Ton, L’Illustration, Femina, Le Jardin des Dames et Des Modes, Vogue, and La Vie Parisienne. He famously created the fashion—he did not simply draw fashionably clad models. A considerable portion of his illustrations additionally appeared in special collector’s books which were popular in France.
As a famous French artist, Barbier was part of a fashionable group nicknamed “The Knights of the Bracelet” for their mode of dress and flamboyant lifestyles. During the 1920s Barbier famously collaborated with the artist Erte for costumes and set designs for Les Follies Bergere. He even had success in Hollywood designing costuming for Rudolph Valentino which was praised in the New York Times.
Barbier died at the height of his popularity in 1932 at the age of fifty. As a popular mainstream artist, his work was known in both Europe and America. Aside from his design work, Barbier also wrote influential articles and essays on the topic of art and design. Some of Barbier’s most renowned works are illustrations for books such as Fetes Galantes by Paul Verlaine and works by Charles Baudelaire.
The artwork of Barbier is highly collectible today. Among his most famous illustrations are Au Lido (1924), Au Revoir (1920), La Terre (1926), Le Feu (1926), Arlequin (1914), Alcyone (1923), La Danseuse Aux Jets d’eau (1924-1925), and L’Oiseau Volage (1914). Barbier’s style, which has been compared to the British illustrator Aubrey Beardsley for its simplicity of outline, is best known for its depiction of elegant women in fashionable and often exotic attire. His figures are frequently exiting theatres, standing beside luxurious automobiles, or lounging near fountains. Barbier’s art helped to depict the lavish world of the Art Deco style. His legacy resides in his elegant images of haute couture beauty.