Saturday, August 24, 2013


Last week after finishing up my working on the blog and my daily art tasks, I rewarded myself with a trip to my favorite bookstore,The Iliad, to search for some new mystery books to read. While there I saw behind the counter  the edition of the Gruau book that I used for many of the images printed here and casually asked about the price. "If it's in that cabinet, then it's at least $300." I remember buying it for $75 and thinking it was pricey, but well worth it. I guess I'm a wise investor.

Gruau had a long career, spanning 70+ years. He and Eric (Carl Erickson) were arguably the greatest fashion illustrators of the twentieth century. As such he was a major influence on a number of artists, particularly those in illustration and advertising as his work improved and evolved over years. While he might not have been a primary influence on  the artists mentioned below, you can certainly see the changes that occurred in their own work, whether through the influence of the contemporary styles or through there own familiarity with Gruau.

I asked Bob McGinnis about this, and while he mentioned Gruau as certainly someone he was looking at and aware of, his own favorite fashion illustrator was Todd Draz. And when you look at Draz, you can see the similarities to Gruau. When I started out in comics, my heroes were Kubert, Starr, Toth, and Wood. As I matured, I discovered Robert Fawcett, and found that he was a major influence on all of them.

(A Gruau design from the 50's and below a R.M. McGinnis paperback cover from the 60's)

(The drawing above and below by Todd Draz.)

One of the illustrators who's style changed dramatically over his career is Al Parker. Very much a student of the painterly style in the 40's, you can see his work developing into a far more graphic style in the late 50's and beyond.

(Here is one of Parker's earlier works and below the simplified styles used in the 60's and 70's.)

Coby Whitmore never seemed to leave behind the wonderful painterly approach he took with figures, but his compositions and settings certainly were simplified in that same period. Jon Whitcomb went through a similar transformation, but less extreme. 
(A Jon Whitcolb illustration above, and three Coby Whitmore pieces below, the latter two done in a far more graphic style.)

Bob Peak seems to be the most dramatically influenced by the change in fashion illustration, which was his own background. Peak brought a graphic sensibility to his advertising and illustration work that set the standard for the time.

(Since they both worked in the field of fashion illustration the similarities are much easier to see between Gruau's work, above, and Bob Peak's illustrations below.)

You certainly can't exclude Jean Giraud from this discussion. He was certainly tuned into his fellow adopted countryman.

(Gruau above and Moebius (Jean Giraud) below.)

The current leader in fashion illustration is of course, David Downton. Below are a few of the absolutely scrumptious drawings he did of Dita Von Teese. Both the freshness and spontaneity of the work and the fact that he doesn't create these digitally makes me a major fan. You might want to check out Downton's book, Masters of Fashion Illustration, for your library.

So what is it I admire about Gruau? His simplicity, his spontaneity, the drama in his compositions, his starkness of color, the elegance, and the purity of his line drawings and figures. When I look at the work it always leaves me in awe, and at the same time inspires to improve my own chicken scratches

(And one last Gruau for good measure.)


  1. nice, i like it :)

  2. Been a Gruau fan since the very moment I discovered his work, through a good tasted friend who mentioned it to me about ten years back. His kind of simplicity is the most difficult to achieve, since it comes from study, hard work, culture, taste, own lifestyle and, I guess, restlessness. Thus, it's the same semplicity we love on Noel Sickles, Alec Toth and Moebius. I may be superficial but, sorry, after reading your articles on Gruau and Withcomb, I am thinking that Jon's work looks pretty aged now, even though he always aimed at freshness and new trends, while Gruau belongs to the very restrict group of artists whose work never get old. Luckily, there's also a relatively cheap book on him that I recommend buying, by editor Herscher. Thanks for your posts and great art Voz!

  3. I couldn't agree more about your comparison with Whitcomb. I was always blown away by the latter's pencil sketches, but the finished paintings always looks a bit too slick for me- more style than substance. I feel this way when I compare Fawcett to Dorne. While Dorne has a immense humorous charm to his drawing he doesn't have the clarity and sophistication that Fawcett has.

  4. Gruau was a master designer always looking for the strong statement.This is where I'd compare him with Peak who never plays it safe with shape or color.I always feel there's a Peak influence when I see 60s Steranko.

  5. Great post! The drawing of a woman at a desk is by Jack Potter, not Tod Draz.

  6. "The problem with the internet is that it is difficult to verify the truth of everything you read." Abraham Lincoln
    Thanks, Daniel.

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