c.1947 by René Gruau
Dior Illustrated: René Gruau and the Line of Beauty is a mesmerising exhibition. Set out in the cavernous rooms of the Embankment Galleries, we are confronted with a regal-like hall lined with Gruau’s enticing drawings. These range from the very early, the nipped in waists of the ‘New Look’, to the leather clad Dior girl of the 80s. What is particularly striking is just how contemporary these figures appear; Gruau’s line summons a timeless style and glamour that is so full of life it refuses to be dated or confined to a particular period. Trend and fashion are of course evoked, but the characters of Gruau are those that transport to be as relevant and inviting now as they were then – seducing us better than any photograph could. There is a humour and personality to his drawings that serves to provide so much more than a ‘product’. These drawings are as much about their character as the stocking, dress or perfume they are designed to advertise, fusing the line of the material and the figure that wears it as one. It is this that makes these drawings so poignant despite their simplicity. Here, as bright orange parts suggestively, the gesture captured is seductively subtle and, we can imagine, fleeting – a quick and elegant wave from a slender and poised hand. The hand holds the handkerchief, glitteringly translucent, with a casual ease, filling the wave with a decadence of personality. Gruau creates personas by the slightest of detail; his work is perhaps the epitome of “less is more” and less is definitely more sexy. Gruau’s images are tantalisingly effortlessly, creating beautiful examples of women, men and the design of Dior.