René Gruau 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. He became artistic director for advertising for Christian Dior in 1947. 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.
He didn’t only illustrate for Dior however, but for other designers and fashion houses including Pierre Balmain, Jacques Fath, Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Rochas, Lanvin, Elizabeth Arden, and Hubert de Givenchy, 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.
His illustrations shaped the path of Haute Couture, and influenced fashion itself, in a true life-imitating-art-imitating-life way. For me Gruau’s women are glamour and high-society, femininity and sensuality. When I see his illustrations I think of Paris, I think of Vogue, I think of champagne and the Moulin Rouge, and the French Riviera, of perfume and red lipstick. Gruau died at the age of 95 in 2004 – so recently! *sigh*
Visit the official Rene Gruau website here.