Gruau Rene

Gruau’s fashion illustrations epitomise the glamour and sophistication of fifties couture – gracing the era’s most iconic magazines and advertisements, from Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar to BalenciagaBalmain, Givenchy and Lanvin.  A close friend and collaborator of Christian Dior, the pair shared the ultra-feminine vision for the brand. As the chief visualiser for Dior, Gruau depicted timeless ideal women, both elegant and beautiful. His style is distinctive and easily recognisable. Whilst drawing inspiration from Japanese woodcuts and late 19th Century art and posters, Gruau remains highly original. He selected props for his women which enhanced their glamour and sensuality, as well as evoking a sense of an underlying narrative. These luxurious, aspirational and somewhat abstract renderings capture the ‘essence’ of a brand rather than a product, and have meant that Gruau is often named as the father of modern fashion advertising. Even when photography displaced art as the medium for communicating fashion, Gruau continued to flourish. No snap ever caught the environment of glamour as did his brush.

One was the couturier Christian Dior, the other his chief visualiser, artist René Gruau, who died aged 95. Gruau was invited to draw for Flair, Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar in New York in the late 1950’s.

“Gruau had, in fact, persuaded Dior to accept the sponsorship of textile magnate Marcel Boussac, which made possible the House of Dior and its first, 1947, collection – the New Look, based on Dior’s childhood memories of ultra-feminine women in the belle époque era. Gruau also envisaged for Dior, and later for other designers, the spirit of their creations. Some of his artworks were what we now call “brand images” – the pearl-necklaced swan he dreamed up for Miss Dior perfume after Dior gave him a whiff and a briefing. Others proposed an enviable life of luxe, lovely women happy in chic settings. ”