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Renè Gruau

rene_gruauRenè Gruau, born Renato Zavagli in Rimini on 4th February 1909, was one of the twentieth centuries most important graphic designers. He designed famous posters for the Lido and Moulin Rouge cabarets in Paris; he created sophisticated images that defined companies like Air France, Cinzano and Vichy mineral water; he designed posters for the Dior fashion house, and contributed to magazines like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Elle, and Le Figaro Madame.

He was the son of an Italian count, and a french mother – it was her maiden name that he adopted when entering the art world. He first trained as an architect, but following his glamorous mother on her travels he became enamoured with the world of haute couture. His first illustrations were published by Italian magazine Lidel in 1924. Zavagli spent a brief period in London, working as a clothes designer, before relocating to Paris, where much of his best work was done.

In 1947, his friend Christian Dior invited Gruau to design the look to launch the Ms Dior fragrance, and from that moment onwards Gruau worked with the biggest and best names from the world of fashion. Inspired by art nouveau and Japanese prints, Gruau had a distinctive and easily recognisable style – a style that was used to sell cosmetics, aftershave, cheese, cabaret, and even cities. Both Paris and Rimini used his distinctive talent to promote their respective cities.

In 1993, for example, Gruau designed one of the most recognisable of the annual promotional posters that launch the Rimini holiday season.

In terms of graphic art, Gruau remains one of the most collectable artists of the last 50 years.

Renè Gruau died in Rome in March 2004.

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