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Masters of Fashion Illustration Hardcover – September 22, 2010
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The book encompasses a 100-year arc in fashion illustration, from one turn-of-the-century to another (the 1900's to the early 2000's). In addition to the plentiful full-color illustrations, each chapter contains introductory--yet substantial--text that situates the movement and/or the particular artist within the context of the time. There are five major sections: The Age of Opulence; An Emergine Line (which are illustrations from the 1930's); The New Graphisme (1940's and 1950's); From the Salon to the Street (1960's through 1980's); and a section on author David Downton's work, spanning from the late 1990's through 2009. As for the actual illustrations, gorgeous watercolors and pen-and-ink washes abound. Gouache is also a popular medium for the illustrations selected, but oil pastel, acrylic, charcoal, marker, and even collage are also represented. The illustrations are most often in full-page or half-page format; occasionally they will actually take up a 2-page spread. Very rarely are the illustrations less than 1/4 page.
It's a nice size book--the 8-1/2" x 11" size is reminiscent of an artist's notebook, which suits the subject. The production values are very high, with lovely thick paper that is nice to the touch. The illustrations appear to have an eggshell finish and the colors--from the most subtle pastels to super-saturated brights--are all beautifully reproduced.
Downton's passion for both illustration and fashion serves him well as the author of this book. Perhaps shamefully, I admit I had my doubts when I saw that the author was an illustrator. Downton's writing, however, is smooth and readable; he is knowledgeable and thorough without being academic or a bore.
Previous fashion illustration books I've bought have all been how-to; this one, alas, doesn't provide step-by-step instruction, nor does it pretend to. What it does provide is inspiration and plenty of eye candy. And for the alert student, there is an education to be had here; these masters show us how it's done.