Impressionism and Fashion Entwined at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

DESIGN & STYLE

 

"The latest fashion . . . is absolutely necessary for a painting. It’s what matters most."
                                                       —Édouard Manet, 1881

 

"Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity", the exhibition in the Tisch Gallery at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, is revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries. Eighty major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world.

 

With the rise of the department store, the advent of ready-made wear, and the proliferation of fashion magazines, those at the forefront of the avant-garde—from Manet, Claude Monet, and Pierre Renoir to Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Emile Zola—turned a fresh eye to contemporary dress, embracing la mode as the harbinger of la modernité.

 

The novelty, vibrancy, and fleeting allure of the latest trends in fashion proved seductive for a generation of artists and writers who sought to give expression to the pulse of modern life in all its nuanced richness. Without rivaling the meticulous detail of society portraitists such as James Tissot or Alfred Stevens or the graphic flair of fashion plates, the Impressionists nonetheless engaged similar strategies in the making (and in the marketing) of their pictures of stylish men and women that sought to reflect the spirit of the age.

 

This stunning survey, anchored by many of the most celebrated works of the Impressionist era, illustrates the extent to which artists responded to the dictates of fashion between the 1860s, when admiring critics dubbed Monet’s portrait of his future wife “The Green Dress,” and the mid-1880s, when Edgar Degas capped off his famous series of milliners and Seurat pinpointed the vogue for the emphatic bustle.


Highlights of the exhibition include Monet’s "Luncheon on the Grass"

'(1865-66) and Women in the Garden (1866), Bazille’s Family Reunion (1867), Bartholomé’s In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé) (ca. 1881, paired with the sitter’s dress), and 16 other key loans from the Musée d’Orsay; Monet’s Camille (1866) from the Kunsthalle Bremen, Renoir’s Lise (Woman with Umbrella) (1867) from the Museum Folkwang, Essen, and Manet’s The Parisienne (ca. 1875) from the Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, which have never before traveled to the U.S.; Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877) and Degas’s The Millinery Shop (ca. 1882-86) from the Art Institute of Chicago; Renoir’s The Loge (1874) from The Courtauld Gallery, London; and Cassatt’s In the Loge (1878) from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

 


Representing loans from 40 international lenders and seven of the Museum’s curatorial departments, the Metropolitan’s presentation affords a keen sense of the parallel dictates of style as they evolved in art and fashion over a 20-year period. The fashion component of the exhibition, featuring 16 period costumes and an array of accessories, from hats to shoes and dainty parasols to silver-tipped walking sticks, complements the paintings on view and extends  from crinoline dresses and frock coats of the 1860s to the prominent bustle skirts of the mid-1880s. This selection, which showcases the resources of the Museum’s "Costume Institute", is supplemented by key loans from European and American collections and is displayed along with a full complement of photographs, fashion illustrations, and journals from the period.

 

The exquisite gowns, hats  and clothing, even displayed on mannequins and in cases, are an homage to the couturiers of the era, as well.

 

                                                                         --L.P.
 

 

 

 

 

  
 


 

 

 

 

 

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