Kenneth Paul Block (1925–2009) is arguably the most important fashion illustrator of the second half of the 20th century. His versatility and ability to create a graceful gesture or evoke the high energy of the post–WWII generation make his work stand out among illustrators of his time. Throughout his career, mainly with Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine, he chronicled fashionable designs and the lifestyles of the people who wore them. Blending illustration and portraiture, his drawings of figures like Jacqueline Kennedy, Babe Paley and Gloria Guinness capture the sophistication of the era’s socialites and celebrities. This chronological survey contains approximately 30 works spanning Block’s career from the 1950s into the 1990s––drawing from the MFA’s repository of Block’s extensive archive of drawings. Including examples of fashion illustrations and society portraits, works range from early black-and-white drawings in charcoal to later works in watercolor and colored pencil.
Above: Kenneth Paul Block, Eight female models in fall coats from different French fashion houses, March 4–11, 1991. Watercolor and charcoal on watercolor board. Gift of Kenneth Paul Block, made possible with the generous assistance of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf. Block / WWD / Condé Nast Archives. Copyright © Condé Nast.