Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Man from Gruau

I am sure that most of you (like me) just adore the illustrations of Rene Gruau. One of the most prolific and well respected fashion illustrators of the last century, his work is instantly recognisable. With just a few brush strokes and some blocks of colour he created images that moved with the times. Although spanning several decades his drawings were always au courant with the period they were drawn, and yet remain timeless.

The influence Gruau had on the art of fashion illustration was enormous. Commissioned by major couturiers, magazines, and perfume houses they invariably contain women, but what about the men?

One of my all time favourite advertisements is the below drawing Gruau did for Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage. Our young man has definitely moved with the times and sports a hippy style mass of curly hair that covers his eyes, like a shaggy sheep dog. All we see is his rather self contented smile, confident in knowing that his bottle of Eau Savage is close at hand!

Gruau’s men are sexy and mischievous. They are carefree and always in pursuit of someway to make them more attractive to the opposite sex. They move with the times adopting the latest fashion and hairstyles, to convey a suave cool elegance which is sometimes quite detached.

Clients ranged from McGregor sports wear to Christian Dior, proving that his talent was a force to be reckoned with and that for advertising there was no better man to do the job.

As the century wore on his men became more stylised with solid blocks of colour. There is a safety in numbers as they ride motor bikes or adopt Zorro like guise while wearing Eminence underwear.

So here’s to the almost forgotten men of Gruau! We salute you!


  1. These are all so amazing. Thanks for sharing them with us. I hope you are doing well.

  2. Not forgotten here, Gruau is one of my favorite artists. I think I've blogged about him myself a few times! My other artist, and one I find very similar in a lot of ways, is Jeremiah Goodman, the interiors artist. I think I want my world to be a mix of how those artists see life!

  3. These are great! That Eau Sauvage ad with all the long hair is a classic.

  4. Love his style .. .
    and, yes, those color blocks
    are perfection.


  5. It's fun to see the fadeaway technique in that De Marly ad. I'm sure you know it was pioneered by Coles Phillips and J C Leyendecker in the earlier century. Great post, as usual!

  6. what a visual treat! love his illustrations, timeless.

  7. Gruau is my favourite fashion illustrator. So much has been written about him, but you have found an interesting new perspective from which to consider him, that of the male subject. I think he captured the male ideal as well as he did the female, and that is something not seen in many artists.

    He had such a long and prolific career. The purity of line and his distictive style never became dated. Now we associate him most with Dior ads, especially fragrance, but he did just as much for numerous prominent brands and other designers. Once in Paris I looked through some stacks of vintage 1940s and '50s French fashion magazines, and they had many terrific Gruau ads for firms I'd never heard of; some were for consumer goods not even related to fashion.

    I've got several books on him, but they all seem to repeat the same images. I believe there are hundreds, if not thousands by Gruau, that have never been reproduced in books about him or on fashion/ advertising illustration. That is a shame, because his work is superb. I prefer the bold graphics of such commercial art over lots of "fine" artworks. I'd rather look at a Gruau image than a Bacon or Freud.

    You saved the best image for the last....

  8. This is so amazing, so "Mad Man"! I have never heard of Gruau - so, thank you for introducing me to the name. It feels so great to start morning with a discovery like this. My Grandfather was a fashion illustrator too. I remeber when I was 5, in the late 70-s, I used to watch him draw dresses for the magazine. I thought they were the most spectacular gowns on Earth. Of course, fashiong in the late 70-s in USSR was almost nowhere to be found...maybe in my grandfather's drawings only.Have a very wonderful day.:-)

  9. I've always enjoyed the technique in the second image, where form is suggested by absence of line, not unlike painting a winter watercolor and indicating the snow by leaving the paper blank. And look at the right-hand fellow in the attache case. He looks like a young Andy Warhol, who was a well-known ad agency art director at that time. Thanks for a great posting. Mark


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