Friday, February 22, 2013

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

An 1866 painting by Claude Monet, Camille.

Four years in the making and featuring 80 Impressionist masterworks by artists such as Monet, Manet, Renoir, Tissot, Whistler, Morisot, and Cassatt, and shown alongside clothes of the period, the glorious new show Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity opens to the public February 26, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit, a joint venture between the Met, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and the Art Institute of Chicago, will travel to Chicago after its run at the Met.

The show explores the relationship between art and fashion from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s and underscores the “defining role of fashion” in Impressionist painting, says Susan Alyson Stein, Curator in the Department of European Paintings, who organized the exhibit for the Met.

A gray and green striped silk gauze dress from 1865-68.

Stripes were increasingly popular in ladies’ fashions by the mid-1860s.

Met director Thomas P. Campbell noted in his remarks to the press that “artists turned a fresh eye to the fashions of their day” which they knew showed “the pulse and flow of contemporary life.”

I predict this show will be as big a hit in New York as it was in Paris, where over 500,000 visitors saw it, breaking attendance records at the Musée d’Orsay.

Camille in the exhibit.

The pairing of period clothing with the paintings they inspired is brilliant curatorial work. Most of the clothes are not from any particular couturier—with the exception of two Charles Frederick Worth gowns in the final gallery (Ah ha! I called it!). This allows the viewer to glance from painting to garment and back again to note how the mode of the day was expressed in some of the most famous artistic masterpieces from that time. It also shows that the clothes, too, could often be considered works of art.

A 1862-64 Day Dress of white cotton piqué with black soutache, inspired by military uniforms.

The opening quote in the exhibit is from Édouard Manet in 1881: “The latest fashion…is absolutely necessary for a painting. It’s what matters most.” As department stores, ready-made clothes, and fashion magazines all began to rise in the late 19th century, the avant-garde painters of the day understood that changing fashions were what was new and modern in their increasingly industrialized and rapidly changing landscape.

A visit to this exhibit offers a fascinating backward glance to an era I’ve always liked learning about. With their increased interest in evening entertainments, department stores, magazines, and the latest fashions—in the face of so many changes in their day-to-day life—late 19th century society, as presented in Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, is one I can relate to, whose pastimes feel familiar.

The wonderful dresses are interspersed through each gallery.

An 1867 Day Dress with Monet’s 1865-66 Luncheon on the Grass (central panel) in the background.

Monet’s 1866 Women in the Garden. The lady in the foreground wears a dress with soutache.

Auguste Renoir, Lise (Woman with Umbrella), 1867.

A Morning Dress from 1865. A white dress was a sign of purity and a privileged lifestyle.

Parasols of 1860-69 of black silk lace, ivory silk faille, taffeta and carved ivory handles.

Amen, brothers.

So hard to capture because of the reflection but I loved this 1877 Reception Dress!

I want to wear this and go drink champagne somewhere. Who’s with me?

The Maison Roger dress is of silk organza and includes Chantilly and guipure lace and jet!

The Parisienne by Édouard Manet, 1875. This is the 1st time it has traveled to the US.

On the Balcony by Berthe Morisot, 1872, showing the artist’s sister and niece. It makes me think of me and my girl!

Another Morisot I loved, Figure of a Woman (Before the Theater), 1875.

An 1880 summer dress and the painting it is featured in.

The picture above shows In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé) by Albert Bartholomé, as well as the actual dress his wife wore when he painted her portrait. When she died, just six years after he painted this picture, Bartholomé gave up painting and turned to sculpture. He kept the dress his wife wore, and it has been perfectly preserved.

In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé) by Albert Bartholomé, 1881.

The rise of department stores led to an increased demand for new fashions. An 1881 advertisement.

Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, an 1870 painting by James Tissot. I love a man in uniform!

A derby and top hat with Gustave Caillebotte’s 1880 At the Café in the background.

A man’s frock coat and trousers from 1867-68.

Arrangement in Flesh Colour and Black: Portrait of Théodore Duret by Whistler, 1883.

A trio of corsets from 1877-1880.

Oh that yellow dress! Evening (The Ball) by James Tissot, 1878.

Mary Cassatt’s In the Loge, 1878. Check out the man in the picture looking at this lady!

An 1882 Evening Dress of cream silk satin and netting by Charles Frederick Worth. 

Worth had a special room in his atelier to show how fabrics and colors would look in artificial light.

By the end of the 1800’s Worth was THE couturier and was dictating trends and silhouettes.

The artificial roses and leaves would have trembled with every move made by the wearer.

I love this picture by Auguste Renoir. La Loge, 1874. Black and white stripes and pink roses!

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity is on view until May 27, 2013.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street
New York NY 10028


The Dainty Dolls House said...

Absolutely marvellous x

Linda said...

Just extraordinary! Looks like a great exhibit, Jill, sure would love to see it.

Sacramento Amate said...

How wonderful to live history through clothes.
Thank you for sharing, dear Jill.

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

this was a fabulous exhibit, but the crowds were unbearable in Paris for the show... - the valentino exhibit in London was also very good. PS I just went to a talk at the royal academy two nights ago and your friend Ari Cohen was there - it was a pity he didn't get a chance to speak as much as we would have liked...

Anonymous said...

So fantastic. Thanks for sharing. I've been trying to decide if this would be worth a trip to Chicago this fall, and it's beginning to look like a yes.

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