Deco Future: The Seductive Draftsmanship of George Stavrinos

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:


“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.

9 Responses to “Deco Future: The Seductive Draftsmanship of George Stavrinos”

  1. Tertiary Says:

    Seeing the title on twitter, I said to myself “Seductive? How seductive can draftsmanship really be?”

    And lo! It it turns out draftsmanship can be incredibly seductive.
    Incredible what a pencil can do, in the right hands.

  2. Mr. Brightside Says:

    This is amazing, beautiful and so inspiring. You don’t see much fashion illustration like this.

  3. Katherine Says:

    Love it

  4. Pablo L Sánchez Says:

    I finally now know to happen to George Stavrinos.
    I was guest at his home in 1973-75. My homeroom science teacher
    Robert Spiegel was a good friend of George Stavrinos.
    Between my art teacher Elaine Slechel @ J.H.S 82 and Robert Spiegel,
    they both though that meeting George Stavrinos would have
    a positive influence on me as an artist.
    I was accepted @ the H.S of Art & Design and had no desire
    to attend. I wanted to follow in my older brother and go
    to the #1 sports high school in the city Dewitt Clinton.

    George Stavrinos was only 25yrs. old when I met him.
    His large minimilist interior one bedroom apartment overlooking
    Central Park West and doubled as his art studio.
    George spoked to me like a big brother and showed me how he made
    a good living from his work.
    He did fashion illustration regularly for the New York times, Vanity Fair, Playboy, album cover and many others.
    George would paid models to pose for him in his studio and
    the pose of these subjects were used for his illustration.

    When I left his apartment that saturday, a sunny spring afternoon I
    knew art would be my chosen field.

    I’m sorry George Stavrinos and Robert Spiegel are not alive today.
    These two individuals and my art teacher, Elaine Slechel made a tremendous
    impact in my live. I will always remember these individuals
    for taking the time to guide me towards an art education.
    God Bless You all!

  5. Thomas Says:

    Did you know his friend Oona from Lexington, MA? I knew George in NY and met him through Oona, what a great guy. He told me he worked with Fellini also. What a great guy George was.

  6. Artist Spotlight George Stavrinos - eGay Cafe Says:

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  7. Mary Leslie Says:

    I was so amazed with his style of graphite drawings that I saved every one of his pages that were drawn for Barney’s in Vogue Mag during the
    late ’70’s. Some are framed and some remain in a file folder.
    I am thrilled to have come accross this site and others that showcase his work. It’s a talant that was rare and influenced so much in
    illustrated marketing.


  8. Bil Donovan Says:

    George Stavrinos was unique and created a market for fashion illustration that was competitive with photography, which was monopolizing the field. His surrealistic narratives were engrossing and timeless. The Society of Illustrators in New York is opening a George Stavrinos exhibit September 3 through October 19, 2013. Once again his remarkable images will inspire and influence a new generation of artists.

  9. radha bello Says:

    In the early 70’s I often traveled to boston from my home in Vermont.
    I loved shopping in the second hand stores and my favorite was one that specialized in clothes from 1920-50. It was called Dazzle and was on 11 Boylston st. I still have a wonderful poster that is signed Stavrinos in a deco style. Does anyone know it’s history.???