As fashion illustrators go, Joe Eula’s career was fairly eccentric. His talents were wide reaching: He sketched runway shows for Eugenia Sheppard’s column in the New York Herald Tribune; designed concert posters and album covers for Liza Minnelli, Miles Davis, and the Supremes; drew celebrities like Lauren Bacall, Marlene Dietrich, and Marilyn Monroe; and worked as the creative director for Halston for most of the ‘70s. But, among those who knew him, he is remembered most vividly for the speed of his hands. “In every sense, Eula was light and fast. His drawings were graphic, sharp, minimal, and … usually executed in a matter of seconds,” Cathy Horyn writes in her introduction to Joe Eula: Master of Twentieth-Century Fashion Illustration, out this month from Harper Design.
Compared with many of his contemporaries — Eric (Carl Erickson), René Bouché, Antonio Lopez — Eula’s work has hardly been documented; his illustrations are barely mentioned in most surveys of 20th-century fashion illustrators. According to Horyn, that’s partially because his career was “unclassifiable … It’s off the charts, really.” China Machado, who met Eula in the late 1950s, recalls the unique speed and ease with which he documented the runways: “It was immediate, it was spontaneous, it was of the moment. He was the only one who really had that quality.”
“He was just so fast,” Melisa Gosnell, the book’s co-editor, who worked with Eula for 30 years, told the Cut. “He hardly even looked at the paper. He would look at the models and be like, ‘Next, next, next.’ He was really incredible.” According to Gosnell, Eula had been working on a book around the time of his death in 2004, though he never finished it. The new book is the first monograph to provide a comprehensive look at his work, ranging from sketches of Coco Chanel to drawings from the Givenchy runway to portraits of Liza Minnelli. Click through the slideshow for a look at some of his most striking illustrations and watercolors, including drawings of Lauren Bacall, Twiggy, and Liz Taylor, runway scenes from Chanel, YSL, and Halston, and much more.
Cathy Horyn, Melisa Gosnell, and Dagon James will be signing books at Bookmarc on November 13 at 6 p.m.