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René Gruau , Italian, was a fashion illustrator, most famous for his work in the 1940s and 1950s. He walked away from his father’s aristocratic heritage (his father was an Italian count), to pursue an artistic career in Paris in the twenties. As an illustrator his work was first published when he was only 14 years old, in the mid-1920s. He illustrated throughout the 1920s and 1930s, but during the Second World War, work was harder to find for artists, which is what led Gruau to illustrate for lesser known designers, including the then lesser-known Christian Dior.
Using a broad, flowing brushstroke, pen, Indian ink and gouache, he would create a motif on a ground of flat tone. He drew on many artistic influences, such as Japonism, which was in the cultural air, the kabuki theatre with its emphasis on make-up and masks, and on Japanese woodcuts especially.The lithographs of Toulouse-Lautrec are often quoted in connection with him. From these sources he also devised his famous curvilinear signature consisting of the capital letter G, above which there is a starlike shape said to have originated in a blob of ink. He used storytelling and a witty sense of observation, and liked to press the button on the emotional content of an image.
Gruau worked for many patrons including Balmain, Givenchy, Schiaparelli, Jacques Fath and Edward Molyneux, and also for suppliers of top-quality textiles, cars and brandy. He did ballet sets and costumes. But arguably it was his creative collaboration with Christian Dior and the House of Dior that stamped his reputation. Beginning with Dior’s New Look in 1947, He became artistic director for advertising for Christian Dior since. Gruau and Dior worked together to shape and market the New Look, and became close friends, hence why Gruau is most often associated with the house of Dior.Gruau’s connection with the couture house continued well after Dior’s death in 1957, until the late 1990s and for many magazines including Marie-Claire, Femina, Elle, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Flair, L’Officiel and Madame Figaro, not to mention those illustrations for The Moulin Rouge and Lido in Paris that you may recognise.
In the case of Miss Dior, the house’s first branded eau de toilette, launched in 1949, Dior’s life filters through the details of one of the drawings. A white swan outlined in sweeping black brushstrokes is shown sailing over calm waters and sporting a black bow – a Dior insignia – and a pearl necklace.
His illustrations shaped the path of Haute Couture, and influenced fashion itself, in a true life-imitating thru art way.In my perspective, Gruau’s women are glamour and high-society, femininity and sensuality. Gruau died at the age of 95 in 2004 .
More information ,Please visit his official website
Photo : Courtesy of René Gruau