Fashion Illustration …
and touched with an impressive dose of
(image from tonyviramontes.com):
At work – Tony Viramontes
I spent an evening in the company of
Violetta Sanchez – a favourite muse of the artist and
Dean Rhys Morgan – fashion industry expert who
authored the first comprehensive book on the
oeuvre of Tony Viramontes.
Each spoke of the artist’s frenetic work pace,
uncompromising aesthetics and opinions
and the art which embodied his vision of beauty.
Ms. Sanchez recalled from personal reminiscences,
that Viramontes worked like
“a man possessed”.
She spent many long hours in the studio
for he preferred to draw from life,
taking few polaroid photo for later reference.
Yet, she was acutely aware that being in his presence,
as muse, as subject
was something incredible, significant
“… however exhausted you were [it] was
obvious that you were living a moment.”
(image from maisonchaplin.com):
Violetta Sanchez by Tony Viramontes
Due to his incredible energy, he produced
mountains of beautiful sketches in long, bold, assured strokes –
models were inspired to give maximum effort
They offered “the most of their eccentric selves”,
stated Rhys Morgan.
Mr. Rhys Morgan catalogued boxes of Viramontes’ work,
which were left untouched for over twenty years –
stored in the garage of his parents’ home, since
the artist’s death in 1988.
The organising of the massive quantity
of Viramontes’ splendid creations,
interviews with those who knew him –
industry colleagues, family, friends
allowed Mr. Rhys Morgan to piece meticulously together
an informed account of the man and his art.
American artist Tony Viramontes had a tragically short but
wonderfully prolific career in fashion illustration.
Born in 1956 in Los Angeles, California
he demonstrated a love of art and drawing from an early age.
He would go on to study fine art and photography at
Parsons School of Design, New York
where he studied drawing
under Steven Meisel, who greatly inspired him.
Meisel is today acknowledged as one of the
fashion industry’s most successful photographers.
It was the result of study with Meisel which
influenced Viramontes’ decision to
channel his art into fashion illustration.
Relocating to Paris, the 1980s marked the launch of
Viramontes stellar career.
He began to draw Parisian haute couture
which appeared on the pages of European fashion magazines.
Viramontes’ work arrested the attention of the fashion industry
at a time when photographs dominated
the fashion images presented.
His striking illustrations, portrayed models
in powerful, confident, aloof postures;
an attitude that the eye of the camera
couldn’t quite capture –
but the hand of this gifted artist
did and commandingly so.
Viramontes experimented with
gender interpretive imagery:
men – softer, androgynous
women – angular, strong
(image from 1stdibs.com):
Mike Hill, 1986
Lisa Rosen, 1985
His was a new vision of bold beauty,
which countered accepted images of
fragile femininity and hulking masculinity.
With bold strokes he blurred the line.
He would go on to illustrate for
many leading fashion houses and designers, such as:
Gianni Versace, Issey Miyake, Stephen Sprouse,
Givenchy, Halston, Emmanuel Ungaro
and Valentino who greatly admired Viramontes.
Valentino archived the many drawings which the artist
completed for his label.
During the mid 1980s Viramontes would fuse
photography and drawing into single images
which appeared in British magazines like
The Face and ID.
His work intrigued those in the music industry and
he was commissioned to design album covers for
Janet Jackson, Arcadia and Donna Summers.
(images from thegorgeousdaily.com):
Janet Jackson – Control (album cover)
Viramontes’ work was iconic, signature
recognisable as his uniquely his own.
A life cut short
Tony Viramontes was diagnosed in 1986 with HIV.
He returned to his parents’ home in Los Angeles.
There he was nursed, surrounded by family.
He died of Aids in 1988.
He was 31.
Celebrities and Personalities
Princess Gloria Von Thurn und Taxis, 1985
And then some
In his book, Dean Rhys Morgan presents a wonderful
re-introduction to the life and work of Tony Viramontes.
Bold, Beautiful and Damned:
The World of Fashion Illustrator
by Dean Rhys Morgan
Laurence King Publishing, 2013