Monday, June 11, 2018

Drawn to Glamour: Fashion Illustrations by Jim Howard, the must-see exhibition at the Denver Art Museum

Lucky me! In May I traveled to the Denver Art Museum to see the spectacular exhibit of fashion illustration art by Jim Howard, my dear friend, colleague and (adopted) great-grandfather.

The exhibition Drawn to Glamour: Fashion Illustrations by Jim Howard runs through August 5, 2018. Please go see it!

Jim Howard and Jenny Taliadoros in front of Denver Art Museum.
Jim and I in pose in front of the Denver Art Museum in an artsy photo by Goran Vejvoda.

I found out about the exhibition in the spring of 2016 when Jim shyly revealed the news. A long-time resident of Denver, Jim was involved with the city's fashion scene which is how he connected with the two amazing women who organized the exhibition, Florence Müller, Avenir Foundation Curator of Textile Art and Fashion at the DAM, and Jane Burke, senior curatorial assistant of textile art and fashion at the DAM.

"This is a VERY BIG DEAL," Jim told me. He had to pinch himself to believe it was real. It's not often a living artist gets to see his or her own work on exhibition at a major museum, not to mention an artform that is rarely displayed at any museum.

Jim Howard's fashion illustration work IS a very big deal. At the top of his career, Jim's art appeared weekly in the New York Times, often full page, for luxe department stores including B. Altman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bonwit Teller, Franklin Simon and Bloomingdale's. His dramatic, low-lit illustration style set him apart, creating a legacy of work that is studied in fashion schools today. Lucky for us, he retained many of his illustrations from the 1950s-'80s, and more than 100 of those works were selected for the exhibition. Jim generously donated the collection to the Denver Art Museum so hopefully the exhibition will travel. 

Denver Art Museum visitors in the Jim Howard Fashion Exhibition
Visitors enjoying the Jim Howard Fashion Illustration Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum.

Viewing the Jim Howard Fashion Exhibition at the Denver Art Museum
Some of Jim's earlier works were done in color.

Famous faces by Jim Howard
One of my favorites is the portrait of  legendary editor Diana Vreeland, top left.

Last summer, when th
e exhibition was in the planning stages, several of us in the paper doll community made plans to travel to Denver to see it. The folks at the Denver Art Museum were so pleased that they organized an event around our visit—a panel discussion with three fashion illustrators-turned paper doll artists: Jim Howard, David Wolfe and Sandra Vanderpool. The talk was scheduled for Sunday, May 13, 2018, and I was asked to be the moderator.

David Wolfe, Sandra Vanderpool, Jim Howard, Jane Burke, Jenny Taliadoros
What a wonderful panel discussion with David Wolfe, Sandra Vanderpool and Jim Howard. In the back I'm joined by Jane Burke of the Denver Art Museum.

Jim Howard Paper Doll Book Signing at Denver Art Museum
It was wonderful to see kids interested in fashion illustration! 

The "Fashioning Illustration: Drawing to Glamour Panel Discussion" was a grand success! The theater was packed and the audience enjoyed the delightfully informative panelists. Chatting like the old friends that they are, Jim, David and Sandy talked about the humble beginnings of their careers, each thinking they had their dream job only to be catapulted to greater success. Sandy's work took her to LA, while Jim's career trajectory took him to New York and David went from a small town department store to fashion salons across Europe. Eventually, they channeled their talents into paper doll art, creating beautiful books for my publishing company, Paper Studio Press. The discussion and audience Q&A revealed interesting, intriguing and truly humorous aspects of their unique careers.

Do you wish you could have been there? Well, you can! The museum generously recorded the panel discussion and it's available to view on our Paperdoll Review YouTube channel. Enjoy!

Following the talk, the book signing for Jim Howard's paper doll books and prints (sold in the museum's gift shop) had fans lined up across the stage, down the length of the theater and across the back. Amazing! That evening, the museum hosted a cocktail party for us at the chic apartment of Florence Müller and her husband, Goran Vejvoda. We all felt like VIPs.

Denver Art Museum Cocktail Party
Left: Jim Howard, Florence Muller, David Wolfe. Right: Jane Burke and Jenny Taliadoros

But let's get back to the museum where we spent HOURS in the Jim Howard exhibition. How wonderful it was to see so much of Jim's original art in one place, beautifully displayed in a multi-room space that included mannequins dressed in vintage clothes, display cases of newspaper and magazines of Jim's work and a video interview that ran on a loop. I LOVED observing the museum visitors as they took in the exhibit, so engaged with each piece, and talking with a friend or family member about their own memories of such fashions. My very favorite moment occurred as three young folks watched the video interview. At the point in the story when Bullocks was sold to Macy's, who was using photography for their advertising thereby ending Jim's career, all three youngsters expressed, in unison, a disappointing "Ohhh..."

Retro fashion displayed in Jim Howard Fashion Illustration Exhibition
Giant decals of Jim's fashion illustrations juxtaposed with vintage fashions displayed on mannequins.

Vintage Menswear in the Jim Howard Fashion Exhibition
Retro menswear on display with a fashion illustration blow-up.

Valerie Keller views newspaper and magazine fashion illustration
Valerie Keller views a display of work with a giant cowboy looming over her shoulder.

Jim Howard Video Interview Denver Art Museum
LOVED seeing museum visitors so engaged with Jim's artwork and video. 

We also spent lots of time in the museum gift shop talking to patrons near the display of products featuring Jim's work such as tote bags, mugs, posters, pencils and of course paper doll books. It was also very exciting to see Jim's art displayed on giant banners around the museum and even on the elevator doors.

Jim Howard Fashion Banners at the Denver Art Museum
Featured on the museum banners and elevator, Jim Howard's "Womens Sunnies," 1981, Charcoal on paper; 23 x 16.

On Monday, Jim treated us to brunch in his beautiful apartment, elegantly decorated with antique pieces and his own artwork, varying in subject and style including southwestern landscapes, brightly colored portraits and sophisticated fashion collages. Jim and I even conducted a business meeting, going over ideas for his next paper doll book and reviewing the progress on his soon-to-be-launched website. 

Paper Doll Brunch with Jim Howard
A paper doll brunch with Jim Howard! Micheal O'Hara, Valerie Keller, David Wolfe, Kwei-lin Lum, Betty Kappel, Jim Howard, Jenny Taliadoros, Sharry O'Hare, Ron Fong. 

Jim Howard's various painting styles and subjects.

Remember how I mentioned that Jim saved some of his fashion illustration work? Well, a few of those pieces will be available for purchase on Jim's website! He provided a few examples to show you here. If interested, please email Jim Howard. Once his website is live, I'll be sure to let you know.

Jim Howard's original fashion illustrations for sale
Jim Howard original works for sale, prices range from $700-$1400. Email Jim Howard for more info. 

And let's not forget that Jim's work is easily accessible (and affordable at just $12/book) in the form of paper dolls! Please look for Jim's books on, eBay and

Jim Howard's paper doll books
Shop for Jim Howard's beautiful paper doll books at!