There was a time when a glance through a fashion magazine would reveal meticulously drawn or painted works of art, intended to bring images of clothing to life as only illustrations could. To celebrate this lost art, and the 30th anniversary of the Gladys Marcus Library’s Frances Neady Collection, the library’s Department of Special Collections and FIT Archives has on display 30 original fashion illustrations from the collection. Fashionable Art: The Frances Neady Collection of Original Fashion Illustrations, is on view in the library through January 23, 2015.
Neady, a professor of fashion illustration for 50 years at both FIT and Parsons The New School for Design, was highly respected by her students. Soon after her death in 1982, two FIT faculty members, who had been Neady’s students, began collecting work by many of the best fashion illustrators of the 20th century, including Bil Donovan, Antonio (Lopez), Dorothy Hood, and Ruben Toledo. The collection grew to over 300 pieces. The 30 pieces in Fashionable Art were originally created for magazines, newspapers, department stores, and individual designers during a time when the illustrator’s role was to advertise the garments, while visually communicating the way they moved on the body. The result is work that is functional and beautiful.
Highlights of the exhibition include a Countess Mara advertisement for The New Yorker by Alvin Pimsler, a charcoal and watercolor from the 1950s; two female figures with poodles for Bloomingdale’s, marker and ink, by Antonio (Lopez), c. 1980s; female figure surrounded by fans with trompe-l’œil detail of obi sash for Bergdorf Goodman, 1981, graphite, by George Stavrinos; and female figure in green coat with tote bag on green background for Vogue, charcoal and watercolor, c. 1960s, by René Bouché.
The exhibition was organized by Rosemary Torre — who was an established fashion illustrator before joining the FIT faculty, where she taught fashion illustration for 27 years — with assistance from noted illustrator Bil Donovan.
Torre will also be part of the panel, “Fashion Illustration Redefined,” on Monday November 10, at 6 pm in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre, which will cover the past, present, and future of fashion illustration. Panelists will also include Stephanie Pesakoff, artist agent; Carlos Aponte, fashion illustrator; Izak Zenou, fashion illustrator; and Merrilee Hesterfer-Diaz, art producer.