PARIS — Pierre Le-Tan, the French illustrator known for his whimsical works and delicate style, and whose drawings graced many a New Yorker cover, died on Tuesday at the age of 69.
He was the father of five children, including accessories designer Olympia Le-Tan and author Cléo Le-Tan.
Pierre Le-Tan also illustrated for magazines including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, the New York Times Magazine, Town & Country and Rolling Stone, and put his stamp on advertising campaigns for Lanvin, among other brands.
Numerous museum and gallery exhibitions have featured his work, including the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.
“We are terribly sad to announce the passing of our wonderful Pierre Le-Tan,” his family said in a statement. “He left us last night after a long and very brave battle with cancer. He will be greatly missed by his mother, Paulette; his brother, Alain; his second wife, Toboré; his first wife, Plum; his five children, Alexis, Olympia, Cleo, Edward and Zoe, and his four grandchildren, Dizzie, Victor, Otto and Alpha.”
Friends paid tribute to the artist.
“He was one of my best friends,” designer Gilles Dufour told WWD. “He was such a strong personality, a master of taste for me. He had taste which was incredible – in all kinds [of realms]. His designs were so poetic and clever at the same time. Pierre was a kind of mentor for me.
“I learned a lot through his vision, way of living, intelligence and art,” continued Dufour, who added that he began his art collection with Le-Tan, buying some pieces from the Thirties and Forties the illustrator had collected. “I also collected his drawings, and he did a lot of prints for my collections.”
Interior designer and decorator Vincent Darré was another of Le-Tan’s longstanding, close friends. “I saw his universe, and I was completely astonished because Pierre is a very, very big collector,” Darré told WWD.
“At his home there was a dresser that had belonged to the Duchess of Windsor, Christian Bérards, Cocteaus,” continued Darré, of the apartment Le-Tan lived in, formerly owned by Jean Cocteau. “There were extraordinary objects, and I was fascinated by Pierre. Then rather quickly, we ended up collaborating. We did a play, where he created the décor and I made the costumes. That was in the mid-Eighties. It was marvelous.
“He was passionate about the Forties. He taught us,” said Darré. “He was a bit like a professor for everyone, because he had such vast culture and was so curious. He was the first collector of Line Vautrin’s boxes. He looked for painters like Bergman and Bérard. And what’s incredible is [his] taste, his eye, as much as his work. He is someone who rediscovered the whole period of the Forties.”
Darré and Le-Tan collaborated on other projects over the years, including Valérie Lemercier’s remake of the film “Quadrille.”
Other friends paid tribute to the artist on social media.
“The extraordinary Pierre Le-Tan just left us yesterday,” wrote gallerist Emmanuel Perrotin on Instagram. “He was one of the greatest illustrators of his time, a charming man, a great father and extremely friendly. I was very proud to show him in 1993. All my thoughts to his family.”
Le-Tan was born in the Paris suburb of Neuilly-sur-Seine in 1950. His father was the Vietnamese painter Le Pho.
He was 18 years old, in 1968, when he produced his first cover for The New Yorker. Le-Tan, who lived in New York for years, penned and illustrated numerous books as well, including with his friend Patrick Modiano.
Most recently, Le-Tan illustrated a tome written by his daughter Cléo Le-Tan, called “A Booklover’s Guide to New York,” for which he illustrated many of the locations and people she mentioned, adding flourishes and whimsy to the photographs.
On the fashion front, Olympia Le-Tan’s store, opened behind the Palais-Royal in Paris in 2014, featured walls clad in a print monogram fabric designed by her father. He created all the prints used in her ready-to-wear line, too.
Pierre Le-Tan illustrated a book for Louis Vuitton, entitled “Histoires de Voyageurs à Bagages Ouverts.”
Funeral plans for Le-Tan could not immediately be learned.