Ever since I purchased “100 Years of Fashion Illustration” (highly recommended), I’ve been pouring over Rene Gruau‘s illustrations. His illustrations have a sophistication and looseness of line that reminds me of Toulouse-Latrec. I especially love Gruau’s 60s era illustrations that are super groovy but maintain a classic vintage elegance about them, so that they're not so trendy or easily identifiable as from the 60s. Its amazing how he bridges the bold, flatness of 60s style art with the energy and painterly strokes of the earlier French impressionist style-- its a lot of energy and movement, but with an economy of line that makes his work very modern. I’m sure his style, along with Ronald Searle, also influenced the 60s era Disney animation aesthetic like 101 Dalmations, which I think is the best era of Disney.
Gruau (1929-2004) was a Franco-Italian who made a name in Paris and New York for his fashion illustrations. Taking his aristocratic French mother’s maiden name, rather than his estranged father’s, Gruau grew up immersed in the couture fashion world, traipsing around Europe to all the major fashion shows and waiting for her while she had personal fittings. Gruau in working with Dior, is considered one of the main forces that reestablished post-war France as the power player in the design and production of luxury style. Gruau and Dior worked closely together, and Gruau helped Dior create his signature or “brand” items associated with Dior style even today. Even though photography made more gains in fashion advertising, Gruau’s work was highly sought after and his career as a fashion illustrator didnt end as others’ did with the emergence of fashion photography. His drawings and watercolors captured chicness and grace 50s-60s era women sought in a way photography could not. He did illustrations for Dior, Arden, Balmain, Lanvin, and, his favorite, Balenciaga. Although he had offers for movie posters, he only accepted a few– one being his most influential work, the poster for Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Later in life, he turned, almost exclusively, to advertisements for French, or France-based, companies.
I’d faint if I got my hands on this book:
It’s out-of-print and only one copy sells on Amazon for $1,300.
Check out this exhaustive post by Worn Through for notes and more photos from a recent exhibition