Our favourite winter Vogue illustrations

In this the coldest of seasons, the blue skies and caring winter sun offer inspiration and the promise of warmer, longer days drawing closer. We’ve selected some of our favourite early British Vogue winter cover illustrations, to celebrate the elegant Art Deco style, the optimism found in looking forward to spring and the Oriental influences that were inspired by The Ballet Russes.

Georges Lepape

The Parisian illustrator and fashion designer Georges Lepape first gained recognition for his commissioned illustrations for the haute couture designer, Paul Poiret. Published in 1911, the limited edition album featured 12 illustrations plus cover designs of elegant female forms adorned in Poiret’s pioneering fashion which featured stylish turbans among other fanciful Oriental inspired details.

Here in one of his earliest Vogue covers, ‘Early February, 1919’, Lepape’s stylised Art Deco beauty bears resemblance to his earlier illustrations. Organic rounded forms create her elegant layered outfit of white fur and red floral motif fabric, in this February snow scene.

Vogue Early February 1919, Georges Lepape

The Ballet Russes influence on Parisian fashion and Art Deco

Founded in Paris in 1909 by the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, the Ballet Russes captivated their Parisian audiences and fuelled a mania for Orientalism. Hiring the best choreographers and dancers alongside visionary avant-garde artists, breathtaking costumes and scenery sets left their audiences in awe of the Slavic, Oriental, baroque and romantic elements of Russian culture.

Alongside fashion designers such as Poirot, Art Deco artists and illustrators took inspiration from the ballet company’s aesthetic, particularly the sets designed by Nicholas Roerich, which featured unusual Russian folk art and nomadic tribal history and the costume designs of Leon Bakst.

Costume Design for Nijinsky in the Ballet 'La Peri', Leon Bakst

Helen Dryden

Meanwhile in America, Helen Dryden was leading the way in the development of Art Deco fashion illustration. At first considered too unconventional, Dryden’s decorative and fanciful illustrations that were inspired by the Parisian art scene faced a year of rejection from fashion magazines in New York City. However, in 1910 under the new ownership of Condé Nast, Vogue hired Dryden, where she contributed cover and editorial illustrations for 13 years.

These two winter covers by Dryden from 1917 and 1921 (below) are distinctly feminine, with a matching theme of beauty in nature. In ‘Late February 1917’, Oriental inspiration can still be seen, with the lilac fan offering structure to the illustration while at once blending into the matching colour palette of the abstract hills behind.

Fast forward to ‘Early February 1921’ and Helen’s joyful artwork, full of decorative blossom and jovial movement, is a romantic daydream of spring ahead.

Vogue Late February 1917, Helen Dryden
Vogue Early February 1921, Helen Dryden

George Wolfe-Plank

A fellow self-taught American artist, George Wolfe-Plank was hired by Vogue in 1911. He worked in NYC for three years before moving with friends to London, where he continued to illustrate the covers of both American and British Vogue until 1936. The sought after artist’s distinctive illustrations featured romantic and Oriental influences, with exquisite detailing.

In this cover from early December 1917 (below left), this celestial beauty admires herself in a gilt hand-held mirror beneath the glow of the crescent moon. Adorned in jewels, her kimono robe has been delicately painted in a mermaid-like scale, evoking a mystical allure in this ethereal scene.

A symbol of evil, chaos and untamed nature in the Christian faith, the mythical Dragon is considered a symbol of good luck and strength in Chinese culture and folklore.

Wolfe-Plank’s beautifully illustrated cover for Late January 1923, depicts a well dressed adoring woman, feeding sugar cubes to a tame yet prowling dragon, intricately detailed, even down to the glistening scales. The woman's outfit appears to combine the fashion’s of the day with origami inspired angular detailing. 

Vogue Early December 1917, George Wolfe Plank
Vogue Late January 1923, George Wolfe Plank

Related stories

spotlight Exhibitions to see this season

Discover our top picks, brought to you by many of our long-standing museum and art gallery partners including Tate, The Courtauld Gallery and Royal Academy.

spotlight Publishing highlights 2023: an interview with our Founder, Gyr King

The past year has been filled with a range of exciting new King & McGaw launches. We asked our founder and CEO to reflect on his 2023 highlights.

spotlight Introducing Winner of the Turner Prize 2023, Jesse Darling

Learn more about the artist’s compelling installation and his journey to becoming this year’s winner.

spotlight King & McGaw sponsors the Turner Prize 2023 at Towner Eastbourne

We are very proud to sponsor the Turner Prize 2023 at Towner Eastbourne, as it is hosted there for the very first time. 

spotlight Exhibitions to see this Autumn

Discover our top picks, brought to you by many of our long-standing museum and art gallery partners including The Royal Academy, V&A and The Courtauld.

spotlight Join our Founder Gyr King in conversation with iconic designer, Bella Freud

To celebrate the release of our latest collection of limited edition prints with the iconic designer, our Founder Gyr King joined Bella in her London shop to discuss art, fashion, family and more

spotlight We catch up with creative duo, Inaluxe

To celebrate the launch of their latest collection of prints, we caught up with friends and collaborators Kristina Sostarko and Jason Odd, the creative minds behind Inaluxe art and design studio.

spotlight Celebrating female artists - 20th century heroes

Join us as we take a closer look at some of the most influential 20th century female artists in our collection.

spotlight Meet James Bond Archivist, Meg Simmonds

We caught up with Meg to learn more about the archive, including the rare poster collection

spotlight Introducing Turner Prize 2023 Shortlisted Artist, Barbara Walker

Learn more about the artist and their work ahead of the Turner Prize 2023 exhibition, which opens Thursday 28 September

spotlight Introducing Turner Prize 2023 Shortlisted Artist, Rory Pilgrim

Learn more about the artist and his work ahead of the Turner Prize 2023 exhibition, which opens Thursday 28 September

spotlight Introducing Turner Prize 2023 Shortlisted Artist, Ghislaine Leung

Learn more about the artist and their work ahead of the Turner Prize 2023 exhibition, which opens Thursday 28 September

spotlight Meet painter and printmaker Tom Hammick, as he sits down with our Founder Gyr King in his South East London studio

Learn more about the accomplished artist in this charming interview, and discover his newly released fine art prints

spotlight The increasingly popular exhibition poster

We take a look at why the humble exhibition poster is becoming one of the most sought after artworks of the 21st century, featuring examples by David Hockney, Henri Matisse, Keith Haring and Pablo Picasso.

spotlight Meet paper-craft artist Clare Youngs

Learn more about Clare’s creative practice and her newly released collection of prints

Subscribe to our newsletter
Be the first to hear about our new collections, limited edition launches, and enjoy artist interviews.

By subscribing you agree to our privacy policy.

Contact us: customer care
Email us
01273 511 942
Mon-Thurs, 9 am - 5 pm Fri 9 am - 2 pm

All art prints and images on this website are copyright protected and belong to their respective owners. All rights reserved.