Lepape’s biography reads like the quintessential French artist – born on the Rue Montaigne May 26, 1887 and by the age of eighteen enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. At age 20 Lepape had already formed strong liaisons with such notable artists as Georges Braque, Marie Laurencin, Bernard Boutet de Monval, Andre Marty and Charles Martin. His first Salon submissions came the year prior to his 1909 marriage to Gabrielle Lauzanne, and it was just one year later that he formed his historical collaboration with Paul Poiret. Over the next ten years, Poiret would become Paris’s leading haute couture designer and Lepape would be recognized as one of the world’s most brilliant fashion illustrators.
Beginning with the exclusive limited edition album “Les Choses de Paul Poiret”, Lepape introduced the ideas of “motion” and “story” to fashion illustration by showing some models actually leaving the viewing frame and by turning their backs to the viewer. These illustration techniques were further developed with publisher Lucien Vogel between 1912 and 1925 as Lepape became one of the primary contributors to the famous Gazette du Bon Ton.
By 1920 Lepape was at the very top of his profession. He had completed a prolific decade of work, including illustrations for the houses of Worth, Lanvin, Paquin, Doucet, Beer among others, cover work for Harpers Bazaar and the first cover for Vogue Magazine (Oct.1916, English edition), numerous commissions for fur, perfume and other luxury goods producers, illustrations for theatre programs (particularly for the Ballets Russes), costume and set designs for Marcel L’Herbier and a series of posters for Galeries Lafayette.
In 1920 the Musee des Arts Decoratifs held the first major exhibition of Lepape’s work. He followed this with major contributions that year to the post-war re-introduction of Gazette du Bon Ton, to Paul Poiret’s European Tour, to the introduction of Vogue France and with the publication of a special edition of Modes et Manieres d’aujourd’hui featuring twelve of his new fashion plates. The following years saw continued high demand for Lepape’s talents and a branching out to include catalogue illustration, film posters and even some minor industrial design.
Conde Nast invited Lepape to New York in 1926, further cementing a long and profitable relationship with Vogue as that publication took over Gazette du Bon Ton. He illustrated eight of the Vogue covers in 1927 plus covers for Vanity Fair, while continuing to expand his client list to include Hermes, Wanamaker’s Department Store and Femina Magazine, among others, and to further increase his visibility in the theatrical world.
George Lepape remained a prolific and sought-after working artist right up to the time of his death, at age 84, on Feb 15, 1971. His works have been shown at several major exhibitions including the Palais Grenvelle in 1963, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs again in 1966 and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in 1971.