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(1943 – 1987)

Antonio Lopez, born in Puerto Rico in 1943, was transplanted to New York’s Spanish Harlem at the age of eight.  He was quoted as saying he felt his vocation was determined when a rich Spanish aunt arrived in Puerto Rico in summer wearing a fur coat and alligator shoes.  “Alligator in shoes! That’s what did it to me- it had something to do with extremes.”  His conception of feminine beauty was influenced by his mother’s exotic arching cheekbones and developed into a pan-cultural, mulit-ethnic idea.  As a child in El Barrio, he drew his mother in dresses he had made for her.

Antonio graduated from the High School of Art and Design and then attended the Fashion Institute of Technology where he met fellow artist Juan Ramos.  They remained partners for 25 years, with Juan serving as Antonio’s art director and alter ego.  In 1962, Antonio  began working full-time for Women’s Wear Daily as one of their youngest illustrators.  Within a year, he left WWD to pursue a successful freelance career.  His dynamic style put a whole new kind of sexy, streetwise energy into the field of fashion illustration.  His influences were diverse, ranging from Old Masters to Pop Art, Surrealism, Cubism, Constructivism, comic strips, and pinups from the 1940s. 

Antonio’s editorial illustrations appeared regularly in The New York Times Sunday Magazine, as well as the American, Italian, French, and Japanese editions of Vogue and numerous other international high fashion magazines.  The advertising illustration he did regularly for Bloomingdale’s and Bergdorf Goodman was a staple in the daily New York Times.  Antonio lived and worked in Japan in 1970 which resulted in campaigns for La Foret Department Stores in the ensuing years.  He spent most of the 1970s in Paris where his life at the center of the fashion world was like a continual costume party.  He always worked from life, and his models- who were his muses- included Jerry Hall, Pat Cleveland, Jessica Lange, Grace Jones, and Tina Chow.

“More than describing clothes,” wrote GQ editor Philip Smith in Arts magazine in 1980, “the drawings are about a feeling of being that comes from living and looking a certain way.  The images function more as social icons than advertisements.” 

The year 1982 saw the publication of Antonio’s Girls, a collection of his illustrations from 1974 to 1982.  In 1983 the Council of Fashion Designers of America named Antonio as American Fashion Illustrator of the Year.  In 1985 he published Antonio’s Tales from the Thousand and One Nights.  During the last ten years of his life, Antonio devoted much of his time to giving lectures and workshops to students of fashion illustration.  He told an interviewer, “I’m always inspired by people.  People are what I love more than anything else.”

Judy Francis

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