George Stavrinos was a fashion illustrator who lived from 1948-1990. Not much is written about him on Wikipedia at the moment, but according to illustrator Thomas Heller Buchanan, “his softly modeled pencil drawings were a mainstay of Bergdorf Goodman and Barney’s fashion ads, though Stavrinos did not consider himself a fashion illustrator. He was an artist, photographer, commercial illustrator, and filmmaker.”
A graduate of RISD, Stravinos was known for his representational style and strong draftsmanship that “created an arresting new look that set the pace for his contemporaries and still continues to be an influence,” according to his bio in the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame. A huge fan of J. C. Leyendecker, Stavrinos crafted striking illustrations that mixed time periods and transcended the world of fashion. He died from pneumonia complications at the young age of 42.
Despite the bizarre scarcity of information available about Stavrinos on the web, one unlikely source turned up to give a glimse into his life: this auction website. In describing a rare book of Stavrinos illustrations printed in Japan, a person who may have known Stavrinos writes:
When my dear friend George Stavrinos arrived in New York in November 1973, he had but five hundred dollars in his pocket and a portfolio of dreams tucked under his arm. At that time Fashion was the almost exclusive province of the photographic image. Fashion Illustration, which had once flourished under the magical touch of Lepape and Benito, or much later, under Gruau, had devolved into bland, linear sketches of half hearted ads. … Into this vacuum enters Mr. Stavrinos whose illustrations for Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys New York, brought back a lushly representational style of Fine Art Illustration not seen since the days of Charles Dana Gibson, Howard Chandler Christy, J.C. Leyendecker and Antonio Lopez. The Stavrinos style was characterized by a great attention to detail, an exactness and a symmetry normally associated with classical works. His work revolutionized fashion illustration in much the same way that Bruce Weber, Herb Ritts & Scavullo revolutionized fashion photography. For while his work is highly representational, it’s imagery evokes those tender, tingling feelings of Romance & Longing. Memories of a time that never may have never existed, except in our imaginations.
In addition to his contributions to the fashion world, Stavrinos also has a place in the history of LGBT art. He created a smoldering cover for first edition of The Deformity Lover, a book of queer poems by Felice Picano, his illustrations ran in Christopher Street and Blueboy, two seminal gay magazines of the 1970s, and he may have contributed an uncredited cover for Paul Monette’s “Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll.” His most overtly homoerotic works, The Bather and Lifeguard, appear in the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.
Previously on Coilhouse:
- Vintage Jantzen: The Pin-Up Powerhouse
- Jared Joslin: Stop, Look, and Glisten
- When Lace Becomes Skin: The Serge Lutens Mystique
- Setting Sail in the Flickr Ocean: My Vintage Vogue
- Syd Mead’s Designs for the Original Tron
- Sous La Glace – Georges Leonnec
“Cover of the Avon paperback reprint of Taking Care of Mrs Carroll. The cover drawing is over the top gay for the time, showing two men kissing. The drawing is uncredited but is in the style of artist George Stavrinos.” From the bio of author Paul Monette.