Tim Sale on René Gruau

Gruau cover (left); Catwoman by Tim Sale (right)

“Trish Mulvihill showed me a book she’d found. It was smaller than a comic, digest-sized, with a white cover and a simple and dramatic black-and-red drawing on it, of a woman’s head. Above her head, also in red, was a single word, ‘Gruau.’ I was smitten and I quickly bought myself a copy.

René Gruau was a French fashion illustrator from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. He worked for the top Fashion houses and merchants – Dior, Chanel, Ortalion, Givenchy, Piguet and Balmain – and his work is distinguished by a bold sense of composition, often cropping figures drastically to emphasize the garment being advertised or the drama in it, and a stylish simplicity in his execution.

I happened to show the book to my good friend, Richard Starkings. Knowing that I was about to being work on the Catwoman: When in Rome series, Rich immediately said, ‘Well, this is the style you should use for the covers.’

Not only did I take his advice, by Gruau has continued to be an inspiration for me across the board, from his love of the female form, to his courage in composition, which inspired me to crop Catwoman’s head on the cover to the When in Rome collection.”

— Tim Sale (via Tim Sale: Black and White)