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Renee
Gruau

Paris, France 
1909−2004
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Rene Gruau is a genius of fashion illustration, a singer of French fashion. He created recognizable images of advertising campaigns of many fashion houses - Dior, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent. Each of his drawings is a real work of art, and is accordingly evaluated at auctions today.


He was born on February 4, 1909 in a wealthy family, occupying a high position in society, and Rene’s childhood was happy and cloudless. He was practically born with a pencil in his hand - drawing from an early age was his favorite pastime. His parents are an Italian aristocrat and a French countess, and his full name is Renato de Zavalli Riccardelli Caminate. Grue is the mother's maiden name.
After the divorce of his parents, he went to Paris with her and was simply amazed at this luxurious proud - the capital of European fashion. At the same time, his artistic experiments found his admirers - the first drawing of Gruau was published when he was only fourteen years old.
At the age of twenty, he began his career as a fashion designer, but quickly abandoned this lesson, realizing that the brush and pen are closer to him than a thread with a needle, and the created images need not be embodied in the material.
The first magazine with which he signed a contract was L'Officiel, and after the first publication, Rene was swept by an avalanche of flattering and monetary orders. In the thirties, fashion magazines almost never used photography. Photographic equipment of that time did not allow creating the same attractive and expressive images as the illustrations were, and fashion illustrators were very popular.
Christian Dior, launching a new fragrance - Miss Dior, turned specifically to Rene Gruau. This order marked the beginning of a long and fruitful cooperation that brought Gruau fame, fortune and recognition.
Rene, the master of hints and metaphors, gave Miss Dior two new looks - a swan with two pearl necklaces on a long neck and a fan in a hand covered with a glove.
In general, when working with Dior, Gruault was especially inventive - instead of beautiful ladies dressed in luxurious suits, only a leg in a pointed shoe or an elegant hand dotted with jewelry could appear on advertising posters.
Gruault always strove for laconicism.
Almost all his life he used a limited color palette - white, red, black, gold, only sometimes including magical purple or cheerful green.
In creativity, he remained a true aristocrat: flexible lines, simple plots, ease of execution, liveliness and not a bit of vulgarity. The women in his illustrations are elegant and relaxed, their hair trembles, their eyes are hidden behind black glasses, feathers on their hats sway, frills take off. These women are socialites, muses, they are completely ethereal, although they are dressed in the outfits of the best French couturiers - Pierre Balmen, Hubert de Givenchy, Christian Dior, Jacques Fate.
Gruau women climb the stairs, hide behind a half-open door, cast a glance over their shoulder. Their beauty is a mirage, it is elusive, it slips away like a ribbon in the wind.
His style is always recognizable, but he was not averse to experimenting.
Some of his graphic works are based on a combination of local color spots, some he used a dry brush, somewhere Gruo limited himself to a brush stroke, a couple of strokes. Drips of paint, splashes, uneven coating gave his illustrations a lively breath.

Gruault's style has developed in the conditions of the development of the fashion industry. All attention should be focused on the advertising image. The color and manner of the image were subordinate to the idea of aroma or brand.

Gruault abandoned complex backgrounds, images of nature or architecture. Only flowers sometimes appear in the minimalist space of his sketches - in the hands of his magnificent heroines, on their exciting dresses, in their hair.

Gruau's drawings are imbued with respect for women, worship of them. There you will not find either crafty looks, flirtatious smiles, or the slightest desire to charm, seduce.

The heroines of Gruault know what they want, they embody those rich and free women who can afford everything they desire, admire themselves and are in love with themselves.

During World War II, Gruau lost many of his clients, but remained afloat. He continued to work with Christian Dior and some magazines. Few people know that this man, whose life was devoted to fashion and beauty, in those difficult years helped Jewish refugees, risking his career, and even life.
After the war, the fashion industry gradually came to its senses. Small workshops and ateliers were ruined, the rich and aristocrats could no longer afford to lead that luxurious life, and the world of fashion changed. A middle-class buyer came to the fore who wanted to receive an “exclusive” product at a low cost. Fashion houses created new commercial lines, more affordable and affordable.

For Gruau, the most fruitful period in his work began - he had to “create dreams”, offer luxurious advertising for mass production.

He worked in Paris until the 1960s, when Europe “fell ill” with the hippie style. Young rebels defied the canons of bourgeois aesthetics, glamor and luxury. Gruau moved to Italy, where he found "his man" in the person of Valentino Garavani.

When photography replaced the illustration, many in the fashion industry considered this a real collapse - they said that with the disappearance of the illustration, the gloss would lose its uniqueness. Indeed, the advertising graphics didn’t go out of fashion: in the 1970s and 1980s, a new surge of enthusiasm for magazines with man-made illustrations occurred, and Gruau's drawings were published in Vogue, L'Officiel, Marie Claire, International Textiles.

Disappointed in modern fashion, he found solace in painting. Longtime friend - they've been friends for over thirty years! - Laura Biagiotti invited him to paint the walls of her castle.
He died in the deep ninety-five years in the arms of his adopted son, in Rome. He did not want a magnificent and loud funeral. The death of the artist was announced after the burial.
Rene Gruau was a true aristocrat from art - restrained and inventive, noble romantic and brave man. Today, his drawings are sold at auction for fabulous money, and fashion designers dedicate the collection to his work.






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