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The Art:

Fashion Illustration …




Avant Garde

The Man:

Tony Viramontes




and touched with an impressive dose of

Creative Madness

(image from tonyviramontes.com):

tony viramontes, fashion illustration, at work

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.

His story

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

Mike Hill, 1986

LIsa Rosen

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.


Couture Houses

(image from lonny.com):
Pierre Cardin, 1986
(images from 1stdibs.com):
Leon Vissot Haute Fur
Leon Vissot Haute Fur, 1984
Christian Dior Haute Couture
Christian Dior Haute Couture, 1984
Jean-Louis Scherrer Haute Couture
Jean-Louis Scherrer Haute Couture, 1984
Chanel Haute Couture
Chanel Haute Couture, 1986
(image from maisonchaplin.com):
Nina Ricci Haute Couture, 1984
(image from hprints.com): 


(image from deanrhysmorgan.com):

Naomi Campbell, 1985
(images from 1stdibs.com):
Isabella Rossellini
Isabella Rossellini, 1985
Rene Russo
Rene Russo, 1979
Teri Toye
Teri Toye, 1983  – transgender model

Celebrities and Personalities

Isabelle Adjani
Isabelle Adjani, 1985 – actress
Princess Gloria Von Thurn Un Taxis

Princess Gloria Von Thurn und Taxis, 1985

aka – Princess TNT (and for good reason …)


Steven Meisel Polaroid Photograph
Steven Meisel, 1983 –  fashion photographer
Janice Dickinson Polaroid Photograph
Janice Dickinson, 1982 – model
Iman Polaroid Photograph
Iman, 1983 – model


(image from vogue.it):
Viramontes and his polaroid wall

And then some

(images from decoymagazine.com):

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

Tony Viramontes

by Dean Rhys Morgan

Laurence King Publishing, 2013