“A lot of people think that fashion illustration is something that died circa 1930, when photography came in — but that’s absolutely not true,” says Connie Gray, curator of “Drawing on Style,” an exhibition running during this London Fashion Week. “They ran very much hand-in-hand up until the 1960s and 1970s, and they really complemented each other on the page. Very often there would be a mixture of photography and illustration within the same fashion story.”
Gray’s gallery, Gray M.C.A., specializes in fashion illustration, and her exhibitions have become an annual event (now in their third year). The new show is a broad retrospective of around 60 drawings, taking in everything from a 1927 pencil sketch by Bernard Boutet de Monvel to contemporary work by New York’s Blair Breitenstein and Barcelona’s Conrad Roset.
Gray is particularly proud of the postwar offering: “We have what I consider to be the very masters of the period, which is René Gruau, René Bouché, and Carl ‘Eric’ Erickson — they were continuously commissioned for Harper’s Bazaar, for Vogue, for Elle, for Women’s Wear Daily, for the New York Times,” she says. “Then we move through to the 1960s, where the revolutionary new style came in, with Antonio Lopez and Kenneth Paul Block — both American illustrators. The American illustrators, without doubt, were absolutely crucial.”
Though this kind of artwork doesn’t take center stage in fashion reporting anymore, the medium, Gray says, can sometimes be more effective than photography. “The photography of the 20th century was wonderful, but it was often quite static,” she says. “With illustration, there was a lot more feeling, movement, and expression.” Click through the slideshow for a peek at the new show.
“Drawing on Style,” presented by Gray MCA in collaboration
with SHOWstudio, is on display at Gallery 8 in London from September 15–20.