Artist: René Gruau - 4me4you



René Gruau, born in Rimini, Italy, in 1909 as Count Renato Zavagli Ricciardelli della Caminate, embraced his French heritage through his mother, Marie Gruau de la Chesnaie, whose name he adopted for his artistic endeavours. From a young age, Gruau was drawn to art, publishing his first sketches at the tender age of 14. By 18, his fashion illustrations were gracing publications in Italy, England, and Germany.


His long-standing collaboration with International Textiles began in 1946, spanning nearly four decades, during which he crafted all their cover designs.

A pivotal year, 1947, marked the start of his legendary partnership with Christian Dior, forever linking Gruau’s name with the fashion house. This period saw the creation of iconic advertisements for Dior Perfums, including the celebrated perfumes “Eau Sauvage,” “Diorella,” and “Diorissimo,” where Gruau’s elegant silhouettes became synonymous with the essence of the fragrances.

‘René Gruau’

  • Gruau’s talent crossed the Atlantic in the following years, contributing to Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and later becoming the exclusive artist for Flair magazine. In 1949, he created the iconic Rouge Baiser poster and graced the cover of Club magazine.
  • His artistry illuminated the industrial world, from Blizzand to Bemberg, and from Pancaldi to Rodier, with his posters and advertisements. Post-war Paris shone brighter with Gruau’s touch, as he crafted unforgettable posters for the Lido and the Moulin Rouge.
  • From 1989 onwards, the fashion and haute couture realms, from Dior to Hubert de Givenchy, Chanel, and Christian Lacroix, sought out his refined graphics. Gruau’s work, much like the proverbial dwarf standing on the shoulders of a giant, contributed to the transformation of advertising graphics into a recognised art form, leaving an indelible mark on the history of art.
  • Even after his passing in 2004 at 95, Gruau’s legacy continued to soar, with Christie’s auctioning one of his oil paintings, “Rêverie,” for a six-figure sum in 2010.
  • Gruau’s oeuvre is a celebration of headwear, from the flamboyant hats on Madame Figaro’s covers to the wild hairstyles in his personal drawings, reminiscent of Jacques de Bellange and the Italian Mannerists. His work with hats, whether it be a straw hat or a top hat, was not just about style but also symbolised a change in perspective and ideas.
  • In 1951, Gruau used a striking red feather to animate a Club magazine cover, a nod to the asymmetrical artistry of Japanese masters Utamaro and Hiroshige. While hats served as a tool to structure his compositions, Gruau transcended their symbolic meanings, instead using them as a means to transform and elevate the world around him.

We commonly imagine fashion-illustration with a female face and character. Still men just cannot be taken apart from fashion industry. This all makes drawing male fashion portraits quite challenging. 

  • Gruau’s Italian roots shone through in his homage to the Commedia dell’Arte, with characters like Pantalone and Polichinelle often adorned in the primary colours that defined his palette. His dynamic characters, concealed by an array of hats and masks, echoed the vibrancy of parties thrown by Jacques Fath and the Count of Beaumont.
  • In Gruau’s world, the act of adorning oneself was not merely aesthetic but a spiritual and transformative experience, a philosophy that dates back to ancient Egypt, where appearance and spirituality were intertwined. Gruau’s artistry continues to inspire, a testament to his belief that to change one’s hat is to change one’s outlook on life.

Artist: René Gruau