The next day I went to an exhibition at Somerset House called Dior Illustrated: Rene Gruau and the Line of Beauty. Gruau was the fashion illustrator for the House of Dior after World War II, and he produced some of the most iconic and enduring fashion images of the 20th century. He met Christian Dior in 1936 on the fashion desk of the French newspaper Le Figaro, where both men worked as illustrators. When Dior launched his New Look in 1947, he turned to his friend to illustrate his Haute Couture designs. In the same year, Dior launched his perfume line, and asked Gruau to produce a series of illustrations. Gruau's bold lines, simple flat planes of color, and use of negative space are recognizable all over the world. He loved to shock people with his suggestive illustrations of men's bare legs and women's clothing strewn over a chair.
The exhibit took up two floors, beginning with a collage of Gruau's famous illustrations. Walk up the stairs and you will find a long room filled with many more of his illustrations, this time separated and accompanied by descriptions. His illustrations have such a sense of fun in them; it's easy to see why the House of Dior printed his illustrations even long after photography became popular.
"To be inspired by Dior is to be inspired by Rene Gruau. His sketches capture the silhouette and spirit of fashion and femininity. His illustrations are timeless, ever youthful, ever faithful to the moment he saw; they capture the energy, the sophistication and daring of Dior, and equally are a token of an enduring friendship." -John Galliano, designer for Dior