René Gruau's world-famous fashion illustrations epitomise the glamour and sophistication of Fifties couture - gracing the era's most iconic magazines and advertisements, from Vogue to Balenciaga, Balmain and Lanvin; as well as being a "key figure in Christian Dior's marketing team" - but what makes his work so special? "René Gruau depicts timeless ideal women, who are both elegant and beautiful - and who will resonate with the contemporary passion for mid-century fashion," Joy McCall, head of the 20th Century decorative art & design department at Christie's London, told us. "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. In many ways he can be viewed as a father of modern fashion advertising."
It is precisely this uniqueness and long-term significance which prompted Christie's to hold an auction of his work, today in London.
"The works being offered in the 20th Century decorative art & design sale today in Christie's King Street are original artworks commissioned by Fleur Cowles during her time at Look magazine and whilst she was editor of Flair," McCall told us. "The lots cover a range of subjects from glamorous evening dresses to beach and skiwear."
Gruau's importance to fashion can hardly be overstated, but - as an art expert - has anything caught McCall's eye?
"My personal favourite is lot 116 as the graphics are so powerful," she told us. "Despite working in a restricted palette, the image still appears to be drenched in colour - and his use of line and gesture is masterly. The relationship between the two women is intriguing and one is immediately engaged by the look of the woman in the red coat."
Estimates ranging from £2,000 to £10,000 are predicted for today's sale which is expected to attract international fashion-lovers and collectors. Find out more about the auction at www.christies.com.
Updated Tuesday October 25, 9.12am: Yesterday's René Gruau artwork sale at Christie's smashed all estimates, netting almost £225,000 between the 21 pieces offered. Despite pieces having an average estimate of around £3,000, they fetched more than £10,000 each on average - with particular highlights including Winter Sun,£17,500; The Straw Hat, £21,250; and The Black Glove, £16,250.
"The 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale concluded with the success of the fine collection of René Gruau fashion illustrations, easily quadrupling its low estimate thanks to exceptional provenance and freshness to the market," Joy McCall, head of the 20th Century decorative art & design department at Christie's London, told u today. "Bidding was fierce in the room, on the phone and online, mostly from European collectors and trade. We are now looking forward to the Lalique sale on November 17 at Christie's South Kensington."
Text by Frieda Grafe, Interview with Gruau by Joelle Chariau, Foreward by Hubert de Givenchy
Featuring some of Gruau’s most memorable works made for amongst others, Dior, Flair, International Textiles and L’Officiel.
featuring work by Gruau and Searle
Cover incorporating page 1 by Gruau and four page story p.50-53. Also illustrations by Ronald Searle p.34-35.
featuring work by René Gruau
Cover by Gruau who also guest edited this special edition. Magazine features one single Gruau illustration as a double page spread p.346-347.
featuring work by René Gruau
Apr 2nd 1946
Gruau cover illustration and two page editorial p.12-13.