Gesture and Fashion – Sketches by Kenneth Paul Block

“Gesture to me is everything in fashion. It is in the way we stand, sit, walk and lie. It is in the bone.”Kenneth Paul Block

Kenneth Paul Block

For nearly 40 years, the illustrations of Kenneth Paul Block graced the pages of Women’s Wear Daily and it’s sister magazine W.
Block may have been a bit of an anachronism in an age where photography established itself as the preferred method for fashion journalism. But his ability to capture the style and grace of  the era and his models made him an integral part in making these magazines true fashion bibles.

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A graduate of Parsons, Block started his career just after WWII. During this period fashion photography had returned to a more neutral style, often more practical than artistic. As the editor of Harper’s Bazaar famously said to iconic photographer Lillian Bassman.

You are not here to make art, you are here to show the buttons and bows.Carmel Snow

Even Block started out drawing exactly what was expected, sober and no-nonsense.

But soon his personal style starts to emerge, and he starts attracting the attention at Fairchild Publications.
While still making detailed work, his focus has started to shift toward gesture. No longer just focused on just the design of the outfit, but capturing the style and elegance of the model herself.

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 By the 60’s, Block would rise to prominence within Fairchild Publication’s art department. His work commonly featured on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily, and his assignments were often amongst the high society of Paris and New York. Women like Jackie Kennedy and Babe Paley were commonly featured in his work.

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Photography was steadily taking over for magazines throughout his career, but Block made a 40-year career through his skill and artistry. His work has been featured in Fairchild Publications until 1992, when they shut down their illustration department and fired all their artists.
Throughout those decades, Block left a lasting impression on those around him, illustrators, photographers and many others.

“He would sit there with this long cigarette holder and a polka-dot bow tie, always a sports jacket, immaculate. He never lost his temper. He had so much style, so much class, so much chic.”Steven Meisel

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“There is no better representation of how elegant women looked and dressed during the 20th century than what Kenneth left us. I think a lot of style went out of New York when he died.”Robert Richards, curator of the Society of Illustrators

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