Always fascinated with anything Truman Capote, I just finished rereading Deborah Davis’ book Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball.Intrigued by the illustration of Amanda Burden, in the borrowed black and white striped gown designed by Cecil Beaton for My Fair Lady, I was reminded of the work of Kenneth Paul Block (1925–2009).
Mr. Block is arguably the most important fashion illustrator of the second half of the 20th century. His versatility and ability to create a graceful gesture or evoke the high energy of the post–WWII generation make his work stand out among illustrators of his time. Throughout his career, mainly with Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine, he chronicled fashionable designs and the lifestyles of the people who wore them. Blending illustration and portraiture, his drawings of figures like Jacqueline Kennedy, Babe Paley and Gloria Guinness capture the sophistication of the era’s socialites and celebrities.
Scores of designers hired Mr. Block to illustrate their collections, including, Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel, Pierre Cardin, Garavani Valentino, Giorgio Armani, Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene and Oscar de la Renta. Block also documented the work of up-and-coming designers Marc Jacobs, Perry Ellis and Halston.
More of Mr. Block’s work can be seen in the beautiful book Drawing Fashion: The Art of Kenneth Paul Block by Susan Mulcahy, with a foreword by Yves Saint Laurent and an introduction by Isaac Mizrahi.