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The Globe and Mail

Inspired: René Gruau's fashion illustrations

"Do exactly what you want; we speak the same language." - Christian Dior to René Gruau

The subject of two major exhibitions in England at the moment, the bold and fluid brush line of Italian-born illustrator René Gruau is synonymous with the "new look" that emerged in mid-20th-century fashion. His collaborations with Christian Dior, which continued throughout their lives, did much to establish the Dior brand. For Miss Dior, the eau de toilette launched in 1949, Gruau produced the 1960 image above, currently on display at Somerset House in London.

Besides Dior, Gruau worked with other fashion greats, including Balenciaga, Schiaparelli and Givenchy. In 1948, he left Europe for the United States, where he laboured away for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue before becoming the exclusive artist for FLAIR, the famously short-lived magazine edited by Fleur Cowles. Although fashion illustration eventually gave way to photography, Gruau's work endured. It maintained its relevance in the 1960s and was much in demand until his death in 2004.

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