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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rene Gruau

This is an old-ish post from the vaults, and one of my favourites. I originally posted it last September but it's still relevant (or at least I hope so). Well, except for the Lisbon Treaty references...

rene gruau

Like fabric-painting and the scaremongering tactics of oddball political activists in the run up to the Irish Lisbon Treaty Referendum (non EU readers can switch off at that bit), fashion illustration seems to have fallen by the wayside without anyone even noticing it.

At my recent university graduation, my Daddy Dearest's business partner gave me a very thoughtful card (and Brown Thomas gift voucher - hello, tortoiseshell Ray Ban CATs with a graduated lens... aham, excuse me) featuring the singular illustrations of Rene Gruau.

I have a very sad love of fashion illustration due almost entirely to the even sadder fact that it's the only way that I can usefully use a degree in History of Art without actually having a job concerning art in any way, shape or form. Gruau's illustrations can be found in 100 Years of Fashion Illustration but any books on the Man himself are hard to find and retail at roughly £300. Ouch.

What I love about Gruau's illustration, hopefully without sounding like an Art teacher (which incidentally is another job that I am NOT qualified to do despite a History of Art degree...sigh)

- Firstly, the starkness and sparseness of composition. Gruau rarely if ever used more than a handful of colours and there's no fore or background. There's no clutter and no distractions.
- The colours that he did use are chosen very carefully for maximum impact. Every colour seem to offset the other one. he didn't outline or make overt definitions, which makes you subconsciously think about the clothes (ok, makes me think subconsciously about the clothes)
- A use of line and a woman's silhouette that makes you think of Richard Avedon's work in the late 40's and early 50's. Both Avedon and Gruau were noted for making Dior's 1947 New Look even more iconic.

Hopefully you can see where I'm coming from, though the above isn't the best picture to prove my point. But you can see how both the photographer and the illustrator same the same preoccupation with line and whimsy. Below are my two favourite Gruau illustrations. Stark, sparse, abstract and totally wonderful. And something that couldn't be achieved with a camera.
rene gruau 2
rene gruau 1