René Gruau’s illustrations were a favourite of the haute couture world and during his life-long career he collaborated with fashion houses such as Givenchy, Balenciaga, Lanvin, Schiaperelli and Dior.
Born Count Renato Zavagli-Riccardelli in Rimini, Italy in 1909 his father was an Italian aristocrat and his mother, whose last name he adopted, was a French Socialite. He moved to Paris in 1924 and commenced his career as a fashion illustrator. In the 30s he began to sketch for Parisian magazines and newspapers such as Femina and Le Figaro and soon began working with high style magazines such as Marie-Claire and L’Officiel.
In 1948 he moved to America. He contributed to Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue and became the exclusive artist for Flair magazine. His advertising campaigns for Moulin Rouge and Lido de Paris utilised an old-world aesthetic, celebrating the traditional poster-art graphics of Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard and the pre-1900 Parisian artists. He continued to work in advertising, designing the hugely influential cinema poster for Fellini’s La Dolce Vita in 1959 and working on campaigns for names such as Dior, Air France, Martini and Omega watches. He has been exhibited internationally at the Paris Musée du Costume (1989) and The Musée de la Publicite (1999).
Gruau died in 2004 aged 95.