René Gruau

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René Gruau
Renato Zavagli Ricciardelli delle Caminate[1]

(1909-02-04)4 February 1909
Died (aged 95)
Known forFashion illustration
Notable work
La Dolce Vita, 1959; Moulin Rouge, 1963; Women in Industry, 1980; Black Curl,1984.
MovementModern Fashion

René Gruau (4 February 1909 – 31 March 2004)[2] was a fashion illustrator whose exaggerated portrayal of fashion design through painting has had a lasting effect on the fashion industry. Because of Gruau's inherent skills and creativity, he contributed to a change in the entire fashion industry through the new pictures that represented the already popular designs created by designers in the industry. The benefits, including economic stimulation and enhancement of advertising are still present in the industry today via a new way of fashion illustration, fashion photography. Gruau became one of the best known and favorite artists of the haute couture world during the 1940s and 50s working with Femina, Marie Claire, L'Officiel, L'Album Du Figaro and an assortment of “high-style” magazines.[3] Gruau’s artwork is recognized and commended internationally in some of Paris and Italy's most prestigious art museums including the Louvre in Paris and the Blank in Italy. in addition to his international fame and recognition, "Gruau's artwork is known for its timeless and enduring style".[3]

Personal life[edit]

Born Renato Zavagli Ricciardelli delle Caminate in Rimini, Italy, on 4 February 1909, Gruau was the son of an Italian count but instead of following in his father's footsteps and accepting the job of royal military commander his passion and inclination for arts led him to a love and pursuance of fine arts.[4] When René's mother, Maria Gruau, a French aristocrat, and his father separated when he was three, he moved to Paris with her. Gruau then took his mother's last name, which is the name he is known by, opposed to his father's last name and noble connection. At 14, Gruau began to support his mother and himself by selling drawings to the Milanese fashion journal Lidel[5] He demonstrated talent for drawing throughout much of his early life and worked as an illustrator for fashion magazines such as Femina, Marie Claire and Vogue in Paris in his teens and early 20s.[5] Gruau found it difficult to find work during World War II and ultimately found little work for small or unestablished designers such as Christian Dior before he became popular during this time. He worked as he could and contributed to the concealment of Jewish refugees.[5]


Gruau's signature

Gruau's artistic talent in fashion illustration merited him publication at the age of 14 and by the time he reached 18, he was published internationally, in the US, Italy, and France. In his lifetime, Gruau worked for numerous magazines including Marie-Claire, Femina, Elle, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Flair, L'Officiel, and Madame Figaro, and L'Officiel de la Couture. Gruau was hired by major designers like Pierre Balmain, Christian Dior, Jacques Fath, Balenciaga, Elsa Schiaparelli, Rochas, Lanvin, Elizabeth Arden, and Hubert de Givenchy. Gruau gave life to their haute couture clothing and expanded their popularity with his captivating illustrations. Gruau's illustrations reinvented many of the designs and gave them lambency and radiance that the fashion industry previously lacked. Gruau, whose posters often echoed both classical Japanese drawings and Toulouse-Lautrec's sketches of fin de siècle Paris night life, was perhaps best known for creating the marketing images for Miss Dior perfume and for Rouge Baiser lipstick. According to Alan Riding of the New York Times,"everything he did, he evoked the glamour and style of the world of high fashion".[4] Because the technical age of the 20th century had yet to emerge, Gruau's pictures were the advertisements of the time and gave marketing and presentation of clothing a new brilliant flair. Gruau's first position as artistic director for advertising was in 1947 with Christian Dior. The two together formed the "New Look" of the time, partially a result of Dior's designs, and partially a result of Gruau's combined interpretation and upgrading of old-style graphic illustration.[6] Gruau formed a friendship with Dior that contributed to their successful collaboration and further enlargement of fashion advertisement, which a primary reason he is mostly remembered for his work with Dior. Gruau moved to the United States in 1948 to work for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.[6] He remained with the magazine for two years, and then went to work as sole illustrator for Flair. There were exhibitions of Gruau's work at the Paris Musée du Costume in 1989 and Musée de la Publicité in 1999. Rimini, Italy's Riviera, has a permanent collection in its city museum.[6] Today Gruau’s works are collected and exhibited by the finest art institutions including the Louvre in Paris.[3]

Fashion Illustration[edit]

Fashion Illustration is a field in which the best and most creative artists enter to promote the sale and growth of the fashion industry[7] René Gruau is one of the most well known and best fashion Illustrators known due to his flair and unique approach. Fashion Illustration is a huge part of the marketing approach the fashion industry takes in the promotion of its product. Without illustrators such as Gruau the fashion industry as a whole would be far less successful. With his new style of art and fashion, Gruau reshaped marketing for the fashion industry forever and has set the scene for marketing for this industry for many years to come. Fashion Illustration has been around for nearly 500 years[8] Not only do fashion illustrations show a representation or design of a garment, but they also served as a form of art. Fashion illustration shows the presence of hand and is said to be a "visual luxury".[8] More recently, there has been a decline of fashion illustration due to increases in technology. In the late 1930s when Vogue began to replace its celebrated illustrated covers with photographic images the demand for fashion illustration saw a dramatic decline. The first photographic cover of Vogue was a watershed in the history of fashion illustration and a watershed mark of its decline.[8] The replacement of fashion illustration with photographs was criticized greatly by many in the fashion industry. There was a claim that the creativity and unique portrayal of the art of fashion was lost in the photos and the need for illustration is apparent with the loss of that factor. Fashion advertising today is dominated by photography but the influence that fashion illustration had on the industry is the component that set the scene for today's fashion advertising technique.[7]

Impact on fashion[edit]

Illustrations were intensely very important in the haute couture world. Haute Couture is a French phrase for high fashion. Couture means dressmaking, sewing, or needlework and haute means elegant or high, so the two combined imply excellent artistry with the fashioning of garments. The purchase of an haute couture model garment is at the top level of hand customized fashion design and clothing construction made by a couture design house. A model haute couture garment is made specifically for the wearer's measurements and body stance.[9] During Gruau's lifelong career he collaborated with fashion houses such as Givenchy, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Schiaparelli and Dior in the fashion area of haute couture.[10] His advertising campaigns for Moulin Rouge and Lido de Paris utilised an old-world aesthetic, celebrating the traditional poster-art graphics of Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard and the pre-1900 Parisian artists.[4] He continued to work in advertising designing the hugely influential cinema poster for Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in 1959 and working on campaigns for names such as Dior, Air France, Martini and Omega watches. He has been exhibited internationally at the Paris Musee du Costume and The Musee de la Publicite.[10] The 2011 Spring/Summer Haute Couture Collection of Christian Dior by John Galliano is heavily inspired by Rene's works.


  1. ^ René Gruau.(2009).Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed April 13, 2012
  2. ^ René Gruau.(2009).Encyclopædia Britannica. Accessed November 10, 2009 [1]
  3. ^ a b c Accessed 10/22/2009.
  4. ^ a b c Riding, Alan. René Gruau, 95: Drew Elegant Fashion Ads (Obituary). New York Times. 4/10/2004. Accessed 10/22/2009.
  5. ^ a b c The Hand of Fashion (Obituary). Vanity Fair. 12/01/2004. Accessed 10/27/2009.
  6. ^ a b c Horewell,Veronica.Gruau: Capturing the look of Parisian (Obituary).The Guardian.04/15/2004.Accessed 10/26/2009
  7. ^ a b Borrelli, Laird. (2000) Fashion Illustration Now .(pp. 6-175) Thames & Hudson Ltd., London.
  8. ^ a b c [Fashion illustration] Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 11/08/2009.
  9. ^ Thomas, Pauline Weston. Haute Couture Fashion History. Accessed 10/30/2009.
  10. ^ a b Accessed. 10/28/2009.

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