Treasure: Artist Louis Icart shined in art deco era

Khristi Zimmeth
Special to The Detroit News

Unlike other artists who toiled for years before becoming well known, French artist Louis Icart enjoyed almost immediate success when he began chronicling the shift from the fussy fashions of the late 19th century to the more sinuous and shapely world of early 20th century art deco. According to, he was born in Toulouse, fought in World War I and moved to Paris in 1907, where he began chronicling the changing city and fashions of the time.

“Art Deco, a term coined at the 1925 Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratifs, had taken its grip on the Paris of the 1920s. By the late 1920s Icart, working for both publications and major fashion and design studios, had become very successful, both artistically and financially,” the site explains. “His etchings reached their height of brilliance in this era of Art Deco, and Icart had become the symbol of the epoch … Icart’s portrayal of women is usually sensuous, often erotic, yet always imbued an element of humor.”

Lisa Vandeputte’s grandmother was born about the same time that Icart came to prominence in France, she told appraiser Brian Thomczek at a recent session held at the Michigan Design Center in Troy. She was born in 1912, and grew to love beautiful things, including the Icart print and an art deco purse her granddaughter recently brought in for appraisal.

Thomczek took a closer look, praising the style and condition of both. “Icart was best known for his images of women and dogs,” he told Vandeputte. “He died in 1940, but before then was especially prolific. He did watercolors and oils but most of the works we see are prints.”

Her etching is signed in the lower left and lower right in pencil, and bears the watermark SLX. “It’s typical subject matter for the artist,” he added. “My guess it’s probably a ballerina.”

He said it’s in good condition overall, but that it bears some signs of age, including brown spots and foxing. “It’s not the end of the world, and if you took it to a good conservator they could easily deal with the minor issues.” He also recommended having it reframed with acid-free paper and other materials to prevent further damage.

“The colors would pop if you reframed it and used better matting,” he told her.

Sales of Icart works have been steady, he added, saying that there’s an ongoing market for the artist’s works. “This is typical and would do well at auction even with the condition issues,” he told her, estimating the piece’s value at $850-$1,000 in a retail gallery, less at auction, which is a wholesale price.

“It would sell for more if you had the conservation work done, so it’s definitely worth getting it fixed,” he added.

Vandeputte also brought in a vintage purse that came from the same era and had also belonged to her grandmother. The 1920s art deco metal mesh bag is in near-perfect condition despite having no apparent marks, the appraiser said. Because of that, he appraised it at $325.

“Everything is there, which is rare and it would be very sought after were you to sell it,” he told her. “Like the Icart piece, the purse is a good reflection of the era. Both would sell well if you were to decide to part with them.”

About this item

Item: Louis Icart print and art deco purse

Owned by: Lisa Vandeputte

Appraised by: Brian Thomczek

Estimated value: $325 and $850-$1,000