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Drawing Chanel - The Fashion Illustrators from 1915 through the 1930's

Posted on 02 October 2014

1918 Chanel Illustration
1918 Chanel Illustration

Before you saw her clothing in those iconic photographs shot by famous photographers like Richard Avedon, and Henry Clarke, and long before Karl Lagerfeld started drawing fashion sketches for her fashion house, Coco Chanel's designs were being drawn by some of the world's most renowned fashion illustrators.

 

1916 Chanel fashion Illustration
1916 Chanel fashion Illustration

 

But, as prominent and talented as these 1920's and 1930's fashion illustrators were, very little is known about their lives personally. Many of the earliest illustrations aren't even signed, and of those that were, I was able to find some basic biographical information about some of them - minor facts like their birth dates, deaths and perhaps education, but most of them seem to have minimal information available. Malaga Grenet and Christian Berard had the most information available,  but some, like Carl Erickson, his wife Lee Creelman Erickson, Schompre, Douglas Pollard, Reynaldo Luza, E. Lindner, and Pierre Mourgue really have very little written about them.

 

Chanel Illustration 1925
Chanel Illustration 1925

 

Lee Creelman Erickson illustration 1925 Chanel
Lee Creelman Erickson illustration 1925 Chanel

 

Vogue 1926 Chanel
Vogue 1926 Chanel

 

Chanel 1926 by Malaga Grenet
Chanel 1926 by Malaga Grenet

 

1926 Chanel Illustration by Douglas Pollard
1926 Chanel Illustration by Douglas Pollard

 

 

1926 Chanel - by Reynaldo Luza
1926 Chanel - by Reynaldo Luza

 

1927 Vogue
1927 Vogue

 

1928 Chanel by Lee Creelman Erickson
1928 Chanel by Lee Creelman Erickson

 

1929 Chanel by Carl Erickson
1929 Chanel by Carl Erickson

 

1929 Carl Erickson illustration Chanel
1929 Carl Erickson illustration Chanel

 

1929 Chanel
1929 Chanel

 

Chanel Evening Gown by Douglas Pollard April 1930 - Vogue
Chanel Evening Gown by Douglas Pollard April 1930 - Vogue

 

Originally known for his contributions to the Gazette du Bon Ton of Paris, Pierre Mourgue began illustrating for Vogue when Conde Naste bought the Gazette in the 1920s.

 

Pierre Mourgue 1932 Chanel 
Pierre Mourgue 1932 Chanel

Artist Jean Cocteau and Coco Chanel were great friends, collaborators and inspirations to each other during their lifetimes.

 

Coco Chanel with Jean Cocteau
Coco Chanel with Jean Cocteau

 

Jean Cocteau Chanel Haute Couture 1937
Jean Cocteau Chanel Haute Couture 1937

 

Leon Benigni was born in 1892 and was not only an illustrator, but a draftsman and a lithographer,

 

Chanel by Léon Bénigni 1934
Chanel by Léon Bénigni 1934

 

Léon Bénigni 1934 Chanel dresses
Léon Bénigni 1934 Chanel dresses

 

Chanel-1934-Schompré
Chanel-1934-Schompré

 

Chanel-1937-Schompré
Chanel-1937-Schompré

 

Christian Berard with Coco Chanel in the 1930's
Christian Berard with Coco Chanel in the 1930's

 

Chanel illustration by Christian Berard, Vogue (1937) 
Chanel illustration by Christian Berard, Vogue (1937)

 

Christian Berard 1938 Chanel
Christian Berard 1938 Chanel

 

Carl Erickson - Chanel fashion illustration - Eric 1939 Vogue
Carl Erickson - Chanel fashion illustration - Eric 1939 Vogue

 

Carl Erickson Vogue 1938 - Chanel dresses
Carl Erickson Vogue 1938 - Chanel dresses

 

Chanel Fashion illustration Carl Erickdon 1939
Chanel Fashion illustration Carl Erickdon 1939

 

E. Lindner illustration of Chanel Acorn necklace 1938 Vogue
E. Lindner illustration of Chanel Acorn necklace 1938 Vogue

 

E. Lindner illustration of Chanel brooch 1938 Vogue
E. Lindner illustration of Chanel brooch 1938 Vogue

 

E. Lindner illustration of Chanel fireworks brooch 1938 Vogue
E. Lindner illustration of Chanel fireworks brooch 1938 Vogue

 

It's hard to believe that these important illustrations, that have been immortalized by fashion historians and collectors, were created by seemingly anonymous artists known only by their signatures.  Maybe the fact that they were happy drawing designs created by other people meant that they were humble by nature, or maybe the fashion industry, even in its infancy, was more focused on the designers themselves and didn't see the need to highlight the work of those behind the scenes.  I am personally grateful for the beautiful images those talented individuals have left with us and hope that their talents will one day receive the recognition and attention they so richly deserve.

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