Library corner: Bold Beautiful and Damned – the world of 1980s fashion illustrator Tony Viramontes


Much as I love fashion photography, nothing beats slapping a brush on a page and creating an exaggerated line that sums up the silhouette of the season. I’m well out of practice in that respect but I still love to enjoy amazing work from the great and good of fashion illustration. On Instagram I get my fix from David Downton and if you appreciate illustration I recommend that you do too.

Back in the day, I was inspired by the work of Tony Viramontes. His work can be enjoyed again in a new book, ‘Bold, Beautiful and Damned’ just published by Laurence King. As well as being an expert draughtsman, Viramontes was a true creative, working with Polaroid and mixed media to tell his fashion stories. And he adored a good profile. He immortalised the noble noses of Rifat Ozbek, Paloma Picasso and Violeta Sanchez, one of his favourite models.

Viramontes was also an expert colourist and almost a make-up artist of sorts. At his peak in the 1980s (he died of AIDS aged 31 in 1988) his incredible flourishes summed up the style and characters of the times – colourful, exuberant and individual. As well as dozens of lush illustrations – some previously unpublished – this book features his working Polaroids and some wonderful recollections from his friends and subjects which really bring the book to life.

The book is available now on Amazon or via Laurence King and this Wednesday, the author Dean Rhys Morgan will be giving a talk at the V&A alongside Viramontes’ studio assistant Susan Gunter and model Violeta Sanchez. Tickets are available here.

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