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Monday, February 7, 2011

In context: Rene Gruau and John Galliano

I've blogged about Rene Gruau before and was delighted to see that John Galliano had sifted through the archive to draw inspiration from a man who helped to mould the Dior image with his illustrations throughout the 50's and 60's.

I have much love for Gruau's work but his books are all out of print and sell for serious money on eBay - the closest thing I have to a print is a card I received for my university graduation, which has lasted through several house moves and now has pride of place on my fridge.

Gruau's work is painterly, spontaneous, cheeky, seductive, inimitable and just a tiny bit risqué - all words that you could also use to describe Galliano's work.

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Gruau'l illustrations for Dior

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This illustration was used for Dior Cherie and was also a promotional image for the recent Gruau/Dior exhibition at Somerset house

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It's great to see that Galliano hasn't used the clichéd 50's silhouettes that are being done to death.  His subversive eye tallies more with translating Gruau's often abstract paintmarks and translating them into dresses.  A Philip Treacy headpiece looks like a brush stroke and an exclamation point to top off an outfit.  A bow mutates into a shimmering tulle overlay on a ballgown.  A train folds and is tucked so it becomes a whole with a dress.  All the dresses have a fluidity that is synonymous with Gruau's work.  More brush strokes are transposed onto the skirts themselves.  Gruau's trademark love of opera gloves is evident.  And the make-up!  Ah, the make-up... No shading - just black, white and red.

What do you think of Galliano's couture?