Barbier, George

1882 – 1932

George (without the customary “s”) Barbier studied at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and began his career as a costume and set designer for the Ballets Russes. In the early 1900s, his drawings of Nijinsky and Karsavina and his work for Diaghilev attracted the attention of publishing luminary Lucien Vogel who hired him to collaborate in illustrating the deluxe fashion periodical “Gazette du Bon Ton”. Barbier’s lavish creations, executed in pochoir, were sensational and he became very much in demand as an illustrator.

Despite his fascination with Greek vases and classical art, Barbier is considered the quintessential Art Deco artist. It was not unusual at the time for an artist to be competent in many fields, and Barbier exemplified this ideal. His wide range of expression included paintings, fashion and book illustration, posters, textile and wallpaper design, advertising graphics and his first love, set and costume design. In each instance, Barbier imbued the subject with an elegance and simplicity typical of the Art Deco movement, but uniquely his own. His models were always poised and impeccably dressed. The women possessed qualities of both naïveté and sophistication and the men were suave and handsome.

Barbier actually lived the life style of the models he depicted. He was an elegant and dapper man, and very popular. His designs for Poiret, Worth, and Lanvin, as well as his involvement with the ballet, insured that he mingled with le Haute Monde of Parisian society. The 1920s were a time of extravagance and emancipation and Barbier partook of every excess. The end of Art Deco’s Golden Age was his demise as well. He died quite young, having lived every moment of his life with the enthusiasm of the time.