The Incredible Life of Vogue Illustrator Brian Stonehouse

At the bottom of the page for the selling exhibition launched in London this week by Abbott and Holder, the biography of the featured artist is split into two distinct sections: “Stonehouse the Spy” and “Stonehouse the Fashion Illustrator.”

That’s because before the British-born Brian Stonehouse, who passed away in 1998, worked for Vogue in New York, he roamed behind enemy lines during World War II under the guise of an art student, with a radio hidden in his artist’s box. Sarah Royce-Greensill, a reporter for the Telegraph, is absolutely right when she notes that his life has the makings of a great movie:

His talents were recognized by Jessica Daves, Vogue’s fashion editor, and in 1952 the magazine hired him as a fashion illustrator – the first new illustrator Vogue had hired in over a decade – placing him among the ranks of celebrated artists of the time such as René Bouche, René Gruau and Carl “Eric” Erickson.

There followed ten “golden years” for Stonehouse as he enjoyed being a part of New York’s elite, partying and holidaying with aristocrats and celebrities whose likenesses he captured in his distinctive style. But developments in color photography led to the demise of fashion illustration and Stonehouse completed his last assignment for Vogue in 1962.

The selling exhibition runs through December 23. It is being held in conjunction with the release of a book, by Boston collector Frederic Sharf, Brian Stonehouse: Artist, Soldier, War Hero, Fashion Illustrator.

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