Fashion illustrators are some of the most overlooked artists. Constant research on fashion history has led me to discover several magnificent illustrators that make me swoon. My current favorite is Rene Gruau (1909-2004).
Gruau was born in Italy to an Italian father and French mother, and his birthname was actually Renato Zavagli Ricciardelli. He adopted his mother’s maiden name when his parents divorced, and returned to France with her. Gruau started his career at 14, when he submitted his sketches to magazines. As he grew older, he became the darling of French periodicals which included: Femina, Maire-Claire, L’Officiel, L’Album du Figaro, and Vogue.
Gruau was able to capture luxury, refinement, and femininity with the precision of a master artist and the flair of fashion marketer. What made Gruau such a captivating illustrator was the attention he paid to women: he knew how they wanted to look and feel in the public eye. He captured that transitory moment when a woman feels confident, beautiful, and adored by those that are observing her.
Couturiers and fashion designers caught on to the appeal of Gruau’s illustrations and employed him to do advertising campaigns during the 1940s and 1950s. Gruau regularly collaborated with Christian Dior, as well as other notable fashion houses, to promote a sophisticated elegance in marketing material and advertisements.
Gruau was also able to capture moments of seduction. Just look at this intimate glance of man in his bathroom.
Not sure if an illustration is his? Gruau’s signature is unmistakable: look for a G with a star above it. If it’s there, it’s a Gruau.