BRIAN STONEHOUSE M.B.E. (1918-1998)

WWII SOE Secret Agent
and
American Vogue Fashion Illustrator

A selling exhibition of forty Original Works 1952- 1962
to celebrate the publication of

Brian Stonehouse: Artist, Soldier, War Hero, Fashion Illustrator
by Frederic A. Sharf
with Michelle Finamore, Curator of Fashion Arts, Boston Museum of Fine Arts
where the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf collection of Brian Stonehouse works is held.
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Private View
6 – 9pm Thursday 13th November
RSVP

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Note: Nothing will be sold before the Exhibition opens at 6pm on Thursday 13th November.
The exhibition continues through Tuesday 23rd December.

CLICK HERE for a Biography of the Artist

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Stonehouse the Spy

     Of the many European émigrés to make a mark on the post-war New York fashion world, most of whom had dramatic stories of survival and escape, Stonehouse’s was considered by General Eisenhower as ‘one of the most amazing experiences of the war’. As a politically aware young art student in the late Thirties he had been disappointed on joining the Royal Artillery to be sent on guard duty to the Orkney Islands. A fluent French speaker and keen for ‘schoolboy adventure’ he was soon recommended for the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Founded in July 1940 the SOE was an elite group of men and women trained to infiltrate Nazi Europe and coordinate sabotage of the German War Effort from within. Disguised as a French art student, a B2 suitcase radio concealed within his artist’s box, he survived only three and half hair-raising months transmitting from inside occupied France before being arrested by the Gestapo. There followed two and a half years of torture, solitary confinement, a death sentence and slave labour in three French prisons and the five Concentration and Labour Camps of Neue Bremm (Saarbrüchen), Mauthausen, Wiener Neudorf, Natzweiler-Struthof and, from September 1944 to April 1945, Dachau. Contemporaries record him as an inspirational figure, and as a Survivor. In Wiener Neudorf the guards made him draw portraits of them and their families. In Natzweiler-Struthof he organised theatrical performances to distract both victims and their guards. The Imperial War Museum hold the drawings he made on the liberation of Dachau and of the War Crimes Tribunals.
It was at the preparation for the Trials that he met Harry Haller, the socialite American Major who was to support his move the USA in 1946 and his new career as an artist and fashion illustrator.

Stonehouse the Fashion Illustrator

     Stonehouse had studied fashion illustration during his time at Art School in the Thirties and had a talent for portraiture. Harry Haller saw that these skills, combined with his Wartime celebrity and charm and Haller’s social connections might help him establish a practice as a society portrait painter. The timing of his arrival in the States was fortuitous; interest in fashion was strong after the drab war years and fashion illustration was still an essential part of magazine coverage. Jessica Daves the fashion editor of Vogue believed, correctly, that his stylish portraits of celebrities such as Tallulah Bankhead suggested an artist who could move into fashion illustration and in 1952 he became the first new illustrator to be taken on by Vogue since 1939. His time there coincided exactly with that of Daves as Editor-in-Chief, until 1962, and he became expert, with ‘Eric’ (Carl Erickson) and Rene Bouché, the Vogue illustrator stars, at creating and enhancing the glamorous, couture look of the time.