better to look elsewhere for inspiration and guidance, when drawing for an

English public.

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Finally, we come to Carl Erickson, doyen of fashion artists. Others succeed in doing many things which Erickson does not attempt, but in what he does do he is supreme. It is difficult to know quite what to say about him except to repeat over and over again that he is without an equal. To detach this feature, and that

Fashion Design Drawing - Drawing Age Action 17.jpg

virtue, from his work and hold it up to view seems arbitrary and unsound, since that method of exciting admiration would imply that what is not mentioned is not worth mentioning.

To begin with, Erickson can draw like an angel. It is not possible to draw better, only in a different way. Anyone who has seen his work week after week in Vogue must have wondered what were the other activities of this masterly brush, which could not possibly find its full and final expression in drawing only fashions. Erickson is an artist as serious as any Royal Academician ; but this is faint praise, for he is at the same time more serious and less serious, having more ability and fewer pretensions. It is easy enough to make these wild claims (are they, necessarily so very wild ?), but I have seen landscapes and portraits by Erickson which will certainly create a sensation when he can be persuaded to exhibit them in public. Particularly his portraits which, in some cases life-size, have that peculiarly satisfying sense of design and balanced arrangement of spaces that one associates with Matisse, combined with superb draughtsmanship and subtle colour ; moreover, they are left off at just that point when finish starts to become an object in itself, and is simply boring. Hardly less boring, however, is any description of works of art which the reader may never encounter and naturally assumes to be over-praised, and we must return, therefore, to some examination of Erickson's work as a fashion artist.

As you may imagine, he never does a drawing for which he has not first made a sketch from life. He makes dozens of sketches in restaurants and theatres, at the races, in the street, everywhere ; and this is the reason that his drawings always have an indubitable air of reality. It never occurs to us to question any detail in his work, even when he is drawing places and things we have never seen, for the simple reason he has never let us down over the things we do know.

What further adds to our confidence is the fact that he never appears to mitigate those ungraceful awkward bits that occur in even the most carefully and tactfully chosen views of people and things. For example, in the one in which M. Patou and one of his clients are sitting at the bar (pi. 42) take that part of the woman's figure beginning at her chest, including her left arm and hand and her waist belt, and stopping at her right hand. If you were to isolate this passage, by putting pieces of paper over the rest of the drawing, it would be impossible, without knowing, to say what it was meant to be ; and yet, when the whole drawing is exposed it is revealed as a bent arm, resting on the edge of the bar, a hand in a dark glove holding a light bag, and the pulled-through end of a belt. Any but the most accomplished draughtsman would have felt anxious about a tricky passage of this kind, would either have posed the model differently or would have felt obliged to explain it a little more, and, in making it fool-proof, would have rendered it conspicuous. Here it is calmly and clearly dealt with at exactly the same tempo as the rest of the drawing, not made a piece of bravura

as some, nor bungled as most, artists would have done it. It is exactly the same with her companion's arm; though conscious here that it is exactly right, one remembers having quailed at the thought of drawing an arm in a similar position, not so much because it was difficult, but because, however well it was done, it could not help looking wrong. Here it has just that look of being wrong, not having been in any way interpreted for us, and yet we know it would have looked exactly like this. Anyone else, we feel, would have asked to pull down the cuff, or have done so at any rate in his sketch, and we should have missed just this touch of nature by which the sleeve does not set gracefully, but has run up the arm a little.

Touches of this kind are commonplace in good draughtsmanship, but it has remained for Erickson to make them at home in fashion drawing, which has suffered excessively, in the past, from the arranged view.

Having disdained the camera so consistently in this book, it is now possible to pay it the highest compliment. Erickson's work can be likened to the very truest kind of snapshot. It has nothing in common with even the best kind of studio photograph, nor yet with a " still " from a film, which, though it offers a certain parallel, has always the air of being a carefully selected moment from one of the less awful sequences.

The very best kind of snapshot is dying out. A self-conscious wish-fulfilment leads people to draw in the breath, moisten the lips, and turn the other (and better) cheek when they see a camera being taken out of anyone's pocket. But Erickson's people don't need any preparation of this kind. From any angle and at any moment they are immediately and splendidly presentable. There is never the least need to warn them that they are being taken, so that they shall look attractive, nor yet to beg them to relax a little because their attractiveness has a painstaking air. Their small blemishes (for they are never purged of these, as Pollard's women, or Benigni's, are) do not detract from their perfection, but rather minister to it. A bulge here, an awkward crease there, sometimes big wrists, ankles occasionally too thin, shoulders too sharp, a pose that is intrinsically ungraceful ; these things occur, we know, in women in whom it is impossible, all the same, to deny perfection. (Particularly do these occur in pi. 43.) These faults, which are hardly more than marks of character and, as such, have their own beauty, are guarantors of truth. If they are removed, as every other fashion artist removes them, their place has to be filled, and it is taken by a fabricated beauty that casts suspicion on what is real. Other artists create an elegance that has the air of being what the French call " voulu," entailing a rather fatal lack of carelessness and spontaneity. Erickson's is the real thing.

Fashion Drawing Sections

Part-1 Part-2 Part-3 Part-4 Part-5 Part-6 Part-7 Part-8