Joe Eula was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1925, the second of four children. He was only two years old when his father died, and Lena, his mother, supported the family by running a grocery shop. Joe Eula graduated from high school in 1942, and with the onset of the WWII, he served in the ski-borne 10th Mountain Division in Italy, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. After the war he entered the Art Students League at Manhattan and had his first illustrations published in Town & Countrymagazine and then produced drawings for Saks Fifth Avenue. His career started with The New York Herald Tribune in the late 1940’s, when he and Eugenia Sheppard covered the fashion and social events columns. Elua then went to London and worked with Ernestine Carter doing the same for the Sunday Times. Joe Eula also created eye-catching posters for Broadway shows and portraits for many celebrities, including Miles Davis, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Vreeland and later the Supremes and Liza Minelli.
Elua’s dynamic impressionistic watercolours capture the essence of a designer’s collection far more effectively than the standard catwalk photographs. He said of his style; “I was considered the fastest pencil in the field, a mannequin need only do her turn down the catwalk at a fashion show, and voila – an illustration.” his work, in ink and charcoal, was distinguished by a light, zippy hand and a natural sense of female movement and how clothes can work both with and against the body. He returned to the US in the 1960’s, and shared a studio with photographer Milton Greene, collaborating on covers, news and fashion stories for Life Magazine. Their partnership ended in 1968, after which Eula designed sets and costumes for the New York City Ballet, which was under the direction of George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
He also worked very extensively with the designer Halston for many years. He won a Tony award for his work on the Broadway production of “Private Lives” in 1968. In the 70’s, he moved into television, directing “fashion specials” for movie stars such as Lauren Bacall and Candice Bergen. Joe contributed a great many illustrations for American Vogue. Later in the 1970’s, he assisted Diana Vreeland, who was appointed head of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York in 1971. In 1979, Joe Eula signed an exclusive contract with Italian and French Harper’s Bazaar, for fashion illustrations. In the 1980’s, he handled the fashion illustration for such houses as Missoni Knitwear, Chanel, Givenchy, Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Yves St. Laurent and many others.
From the 1980s onwards until the year he died, Eula spent most of his time at home in the Hudson Valley designing new creative art including a line of chinaware for Tiffany based on flowers and animals, and drew his last series of fall design for The New York Times in August 2004. He died on October 27, 2004, aged 79.