Joe Eula: “The Most Important Person in New York”

Capsule’s upcoming sale pays homage to an icon of the New York fashion scene.

Words by
Sarah Knight
Published on
October 18, 2022
Joe Eula's watercolor drawing of Elsa Peretti
LOT 99 | A portrait of Elsa Peretti, the second of Eula's portraits of the Italian jewelery designer that Capsule has sold in the past year. The first sold for $5,000 in October 2021, an auction record for portraits by the artist.

Andy Warhol once called Joe Eula “the most important person in New York.” While the fashion illustrator certainly boasted impressive social laurels (Coco Chanel was a close friend), it was his work that earned him such an enduring and impressive reputation. Capsule’s upcoming American and European Art sale, which begins on October 27th, showcases a number of stunning examples of Eula’s artistic prowess.

Three of Joe Eula's watercolor fashion drawings
LOT 101 | Fashion drawings circa 1988-89, each in dazzling full color.

Educated at the Art Students League of New York, Eula made his entrance into the world of fashion by illustrating Eugenia Sheppard’s syndicated column, Inside Fashion, for The New York Herald Tribune. The artist soon became a titan of the industry, publishing his drawings in The New York Times, American Vogue, and Italian Harper’s Bazaar regularly.  Eula’s improvisational methods of working shine through in his sketches: made up of brisk, lively strokes, the illustrations possess a jazz-like spontaneity. Though at times architectural in their concision and sharpness, the artist was also able to work in a beautiful sense of movement. This quality is especially apparent in his renderings of drapery, which communicate elegance and femininity.

Eight of Joe Eula's watercolor drawings for Yves Saint Laurent and Louis Féraud
LOT 104 | Fashion drawings by Eula for Yves Saint Laurent, with whom the artist worked with for over 40 years, and Louis Féraud.

 One of Eula’s most important relationships was with Yves Saint Laurent himself: the artist famously covered the designer’s first show in 1958 and his last in 2002. A lot of eight works featured in the upcoming sale includes seven drawings done for the French fashion house.

In the 1970s, Eula was named creative director for Halston. Although he wasn’t a designer himself, the artist is credited with helping to define Halston’s iconic “less-is-more” style. His role was chronicled in Netflix’s 2021 miniseries about the American design house, in which he was portrayed by David Pittu.

Ad for American and European Art Sale

While Eula’s career was remarkably varied, designing concert posters for the likes of The Supremes and Bette Midler as well as a line of china for Tiffany. He even styled Marylin Monroe for a photoshoot with legendary photographer Milton Greene. In the face of these myriad accomplishments, Eula’s fashion illustrations remain his ultimate legacy. Distinctive and iconic, their influence on fashion, art, and pop culture is difficult to overstate.

More from the Capsule Dispatch