Pierre Mourgue was born in France, 1890. He was a regular contributor to the premiere French fashion magazine, La Gazette du Bon Ton. As such, the influential magazine was picked up by publishers, Condé Nast, who distributed it across American under the name, Gazette du Bon Genre. The magazine’s artwork was comprised of many talented French illustrators, including Paul Iribe, Pierre Brissaud, Georges Lepape. Condé Montrose Nast enlisted all of the La Gazette du Bon Ton artist for another one of his magazines, Vogue.
Pierre Mourgue was based in Paris but made frequent trips to New York, as such, his illustrations were regularly on and inside the covers of Vogue magazine. His ink and gouache illustrations brought a Parisian flair to the American edition.
Mourgue’s style updated with art movements. A lot of his early work has a strong Art Deco influence, with his 1940s and 1950s work resembling the American advertising illustrations that we regularly associate with that era. His illustrations often get compared to Pierre Brissaud’s, for their use of exaggerated figures and their disposition for pretty girl.
Mourgue illustrated for fashion designers Nina Ricci, Christian Dior, and Marcel Rochas. Bringing their garments to life with his careful observation, and ability to infuse a sense of fun and coolness.
You can see a large collection of Pierre Mourgue’s illustrations over at Hprints.
Grimm finished his studies around the same time Nazis were gaining power. He started a promising career in illustration, receiving commissions for covers of prominent fashion magazines such as Silberspiegel, Die Dame and Elegante Welt. He also provided artwork for cigarette brands Muratti Ariston, Reemtsmas Ova, and sparkling wine, Kupferberg. However, by 1935, with the introduction of The Nuremberg Laws, Grimm was labelled a “Half-Jew.” Aware of his dwindling career opportunities in Germany, he decided to move to Le Havre, Paris.
His relocation to France did not last as long as he intended and returned to Berlin the following year. However, due to increased pressure on Jewish citizens, Grimm and Hilde emigrated again, this time to England. And for a second time they returned home. He did manage to get work, but only with the help of Hilde and amicable publishers. During this period, he and his drawings became disconnected, culminating in not signing much of his work. This disconnection cultivated a deep anxiety against public appearances. Also during the Second World War his Berlin apartment was destroyed along with many of his early works which served to further deepen the creative mire he was in.
Post-war, between 1945 and 1951, Grimm was far more productive. He had a drive akin to a young raw artist, thriving in an environment without restrictions. He began working for fashion magazines again. In particular Die Frau (The Woman), which in it’s relatively short run from 1946 to 1950, Grimm produced 61 of the 90 covers. During this time, Grimm was doing much better financially and decided to take a trip to New York. There he found work easily and was in demand from American magazines including Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Esquire. Though they thought about staying, ultimately his wife felt homesick, and so the couple returned to Germany.
Now an international illustrator, Grimm’s work and reputation preceded him. Allowing him the freedom to take on a wide range of illustration and design projects for swimwear, clothing, perfume, cigarette and whisky companies. Also drawing book covers, notably for Thomas Mann, Arthur Schnitzler, and Thornton Wilder.
At the end of the 1950s, Grimm entered a deal with cigarette company Reval. Creating multiple posters fitting with the pop art movement, expressive colour choices such as blue faces and green hair. Grimm had updated his style to match current trends but was careful not loose everything that made his artwork so distinctive.
He did not really correct his lines. He would keep all his strokes regardless, eschewing perfection. Another one of his notable techniques was to leave large portions of the image incomplete, hinting at, and purposely omitting details leaving the viewer to fill in the blanks.
Thanks to his success, mostly due to his Reval commissions, Grimm took Hilde and their son around the world. Travelling to New York again, as well as California, Alaska, Antigua, South America, South Africa, and the Far East. He produced hundreds of illustrations during his travels. Unpolished, expressive, often intense illustrations of everything from subway passengers and street musicians to Bolivian slums and deserted villages. Much of this work has never been published.
To the best of my knowledge, there has only ever been two exhibitions dedicated to Gerd Grimm. Both in Germany, and both celebrating the centenary year of his birth. “Gerd Grimm’s 100th Birthday: Fashion, Girls, Megacities” at the Kunsthalle Messmer (Messmer Foundation) and “The new elegance: The fashion designer Gerd Grimm” at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg). In 2014, his work was featured in the UK exhibition “Drawing on Style: Four Decades of Elegance” at Gallery 8, alongside other great fashion illustrators including René Bouché, René Gruau and Carl Erickson.
Peter Jeroense is a fashion illustrator born 1966 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He studied Fashion Design and Fashion Illustration at the Academy of Visual Arts (now Willem de Kooning Academy), graduating in 1988 with Honours.
After graduating Jeroense, along with Anja Koops, began the fashion brand Ell = Bell. Despite receiving positive attention from the international fashion press, the pair had to close it down in 1991 due to financial problems. Following the company’s closure, Jeroense taught at an art academy, as well as working as a freelance print designer, stylist, and fashion editor for Blvd. Magazine. After trying everything, he felt that he was best-suited to illustration, as it encompassed the most of what he and enjoyed.
Jeroense uses a range of tactile techniques, drawings in pen and ink, cutting and pasting, and photocopying pictures. He prefers clean lines of timeless garments, dressing more characteristic faces, rather than a typical pretty girl. His signature black and white illustrations have appeared in Boiler, Carlos, Flaunt, Nylon and Selfridges Tribune.
“The fashion illustration is still not valued. It is mainly the advertisers who do not appreciate the genre. And money is quite simply the greatest power in the fashion industry. Advertisers want their products to be visible in the rest of the leaf. As if the individual garments are so clearly visible in those fashion photographs now.”
The illustration vs. photography argument rages on. Jeroense raises another good point in that interview, one of perception.
“In addition, the idea of an artist who makes a few sketches at home behind his desk, is not nearly as glamourous as a team of stylists, models, photographers and assistants that put the latest fashions in an exotic location.”
I do not often directly address the topic of illustration vs. photography on here, but Jeroense’s words have spurred me. There are without a doubt others who have a more in-depth knowledge of the subject, however, through researching and writing for The Lounge a few pieces have been made clear to me. Before, and up until the early 20th Century, illustrators were celebrities. Internationally known and a regular hot topic in the newspapers. In fashion alone, we only need to look at the popularity of Carl Erickson and René Bouët-Willaumez. An illustrator’s work was sort after by the general public, not just those in the field. With the exception of a precious few, this is clearly not the case today. If nothing else, it can be said that the media attention shift towards photography, which does not look likely to shift back presently, continues to lower the public perception of illustration.
Having said that, there are a few publications still holding up the torch for illustration, namely The New Yorker, Illustration, 3×3, Varoom, and independent ones, such as Ammo. That is something we can take comfort in and help it grow.
René Bouët-Willaumez was a French aristocrat born in Brittany, in 1900. After abandoned engineering for art, he began working for Vogue in 1929. Joining the industry in the midst of change, where photography was becoming the dominant means of reporting on fashion trends. This, however, did not hold Willaumez back. His unhesitating and incisive ink drawings illustrated the hubris and elegance of fashion in a way that had not been seen carving out a demand for himself.
Within just a few years, Willaumez had honed his craft and his monogram “RBW” became a familiar fixture on the pages and covers of Vogue magazine. By the mid-1930s he was heralded as top of his profession, with his only substantial equal being Carl Erickson. Willaumez was a few years younger than Erickson, yet a professional, sometimes fractious, rivalry developed between the two and remained through the course of their careers.
Their work shared notable similarities. An untutored eye would be forgiven not distinguishing between the two. Erickson’s was softer in contrast to Willaumez’s crisper line. Erickson’s medium of choice was charcoal allowing him to create numerous subtle variety of edge. Whereas Willaumez used a pen, allowing for precision and an assured response. The two almost certainly recognised their essential differences and work towards widening them. Their paths inevitably crossed on many occasions, and though they were not friends, they found mutual professional recognition.
Willaumez had moved around a lot from Paris to London and then New York. Throughout the 1940s, whilst in New York, the American editor of Vogue made good use of his à la mode style. Willaumez worked with Vogue up until the early 1950s, where his appearance in the magazine abruptly drop. His work last appeared in the American Vogue in 1953. He did contribute to the occasional European edition, but 1958 saw his association with the magazine end. He left New York and returned to France.
Erickson, who was still working for Vogue, was suffering from failing health died in 1958. Willaumez, retired by then and remarried (for a third time). He died a few years later in 1979, at the age of seventy-nine years old. The passing of Erickson and the retirement of Willaumez concluded a chapter in Vogue’s and concurrently magazine history. By the early 1960s, magazines were using photography exclusively.
If you are interested in finding out more about René Bouët-Willaumez, I highly recommend picking up Fashion Drawings in Vogue: René Bouët-Willaumez. It is filled with his pen and ink illustrations, many in full colour and does a great job of painting a picture of the industry at the height Willaumez’s popularity.
Barbara Hulanicki OBE is an illustrator, fashion designer and co-founder of Biba. Born in 1936 in Warsaw, Poland her family moved to Brighton, England when Hulanicki was only twelve years old. From 1954, she studied fashion illustration at the Brighton School of Art (now the University of Brighton Faculty of Arts). Whilst there she won a beachwear competition sponsored by the London Evening Standard newspaper.
Hulanicki left college in her second and began working as a fashion illustrator for publications British Vogue, Tatler, the Times, and the Observer. She also worked for Women’s Wear Daily in their London office. In 1961 she married Stephen Fitz-Simon. Two years later, the couple started Biba as a mail order company, advertising in the fashion columns of the Daily Express and the Daily Mirror. With moderate success at first, the company really made waves in 1964 with a pink gingham dress, similar to one worn by Brigitte Bardot. The morning after the advert appeared in the Daily Mirror, they had 4,000 orders and went on to sell 17,000.
That same year, they opened their first boutique in Abingdon Road in Kensington. Biba aimed to offer celebrity looks on the high street. It prided itself on both its affordability and accessibility. The shop’s decor was inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Deco design, and had a stylishly extravagant atmosphere. It was not long before the popularity of the shop turned it into a celebrity hotspot. Artists, film stars and musicians including Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and Marianne Faithfull would all frequent. Future influential editor-in-chief of American Vogue, Anna Wintour, worked in the boutique when she was just 15. Women’s Wear Daily reported this of Biba and Hulanicki:
“she was the name in the lives of Britain’s fashion hungry”
Biba went on to open two more shops in Kensington, then moved into a seven-storey department store, dubbed Big Biba. Situated in the Derry & Toms building on Kensington High Street, it opened to much fanfare, attracting up to a million customers weekly, and was one of London’s most visited tourist attractions.
Due to internal disagreements Biba closed its doors and cease operations in 1976. Hulanicki continued to design, initially working for Italian fashion house Fiorucci and French brand Cacharel. She also designed children’s wear for a Japanese market, before changing gear. She moved to Miami, Florida and started an interior-design business. Her first client was Ronnie Wood. She designed hotels for Chris Blackwell in Jamaica and the Bahamas, and wallpaper for the store, Habitat. She won an award from the American Institute of Architects for her work on the Netherlands Building.
In 2009 Hulanicki returned to fashion designing an entire collection, reminiscent of original Biba, for British retailer Topshop. Following several failed attepts to relaunch Biba in the past by various people, in 2009 House of Fraser, with the aim of bringing it back to its high street routes, seems to have found success. Furthermore, in 2014 Hulanicki was asked to serve as a consultant which would mark her return to Biba, for the first time, after 39 Years.
In 2012, a major fashion exhibition “Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki” opened at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery celebrating the innovative and unique work that she brought to British fashion. The very same year Hulanicki was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to the fashion industry.