Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Don't Miss Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

For a peaceful visit to a more elegant era, go see Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, up now through May 27th. It's a wonderful trip to late nineteenth century France complete with masterpiece paintings, clothes from the period, and accessories to match. This show, which came from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (one of my very favorite places to visit) and goes next to the Art Institute of Chicago, celebrates how fashion and art merged in Impressionism paintings to create truly modern works.

Previously, artists of the nineteenth century had looked for inspiration to ancient Greece (Neoclassicism) or to nature (Romanticism). But the Impressionists were inspired by contemporary life and how people were living every day. With the rise of the department store, ready-made garments, and fashion magazines, clothes and style became prominent subjects for these artists. "The latest fashion is absolutely necessary for a painting. It's what matters most," declared Edouard Manet.

The show consists of 80 paintings plus 16 period costumes and an array of accessories. You can almost hear the rustle of silk, and imagine settling into a box seat at the Paris Opera as you move through the exhibit which transports to another time and place. No photography is allowed inside but I gathered up images of some of my favorite paintings on display –
James Tissot painted the family of the Marquise de Miramon on their terrace. With dramatic high boots, the Marquise is wearing a dove grey suit, but it's a relaxed country suit and not a structured city suit. (click on images to enlarge)

Here is The Sisters by Berthe Morisot. I love how the pale wall, Asian art, floral chintz and dotted dresses all go together in this painting.

Albert Bartholome captured his wife reading. The details of the carved frame, vase of flowers, gold bracelets, glossy hair comb and printed pillow create a pleasing scene. The information card said that this pictured her before entertaining. Doesn't everyone lie down and read a book before entertaining?

A woman is portrayed relaxing in a summer dress in July by Tissot. Although you can imagine it is a hot day, she is pictured in tiers of fluttering ruffles and silk bows.

This is one of my very favorite paintings and I was so happy to see it in person as it's on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London. Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby is pictured by Tissot languidly smoking in his captain's uniform which flatters and elongates his 6' 4" body. I love the contrast of the soft shabby-chic upholstery and chintz with the severity of the military paraphernalia. The scene captures an easy elegance.

Here is a picture of Eduard Manet painted by Georges de la Tour in 1867 in which Manet wears a typical menswear outfit of the late nineteenth century – white shirt, blue tie, black jacket and vest plus light grey pants and brown leather gloves – easy to replicate minus the silk top hat and walking cane.

The show closes with Paris Street by Gustave Caillobotte, a very large painting which perfectly captures urban life in 1877 as these Parisians stride confidently and with style into the future. 

The show is accompanied by a luxurious, thick catalogue

which includes many interesting essays on the paintings and clothes presented.

This show inspires the visitor to live a more refined life. I hope to see it again.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Visit to the Carr Collection

Zack Carr and George Carr in Istanbul in 1995 (click on photos to enlarge)
One of my favorite big, over-sized books sitting on my book shelf is called Zack Carr. 

It is a tribute to the American fashion designer who died in 2000 at the age of 55 from Poems syndrome, a rare cancer. The book was put together by Zack's brother George, an actor and filmmaker, after Zack died. Zack briefly had his own collection but is best known within the fashion industry for working as the head designer at Calvin Klein in the 70's, 80's and 90's, when Zack's signature take on simple luxury and glamour was the defining style of the Calvin Klein collections.
The book is an entertaining collage of diaries, photographs, sketches, and post cards which celebrates Zack's really great taste and the icons who shaped his sense of American style – for example Jackie Onassis, Isabella Rossellini, Elizabeth Taylor and Georgia O'Keefe -

Zack with Calvin Klein

and with Grace Coddington, who was the Creative Director at Calvin Klein before she went to work for Anna Wintour at Vogue -

"I am the only one who can make my life work."

Zack's quintessential American taste combined elegant sophistication with streamlined simplicity, and the book inspires me. Years later at a party I met Zack's brother George Carr. In typical New York City fashion, it turns out that George lives across the street from us.
Recently George invited me to see a new collection of clothes that he has launched for men and women called Carr which is drawn from Zack's sketches. In his showroom, George explained that at the onset of his illness, Zack became paralyzed almost overnight and that the only thing he could continue to do was sketch, so he filled hundreds of Hermes notebooks with drawings of his designs.

George now owns all of the notebooks and uses them as the basis for Carr. In the notebooks one can see the fluid, easy quality of Zack's style.

Some of the sketches are finished with vivid color. 

Zack's scrapbooks combined his favorite inspirations. Here is O'Keefe again, this time paired with Picasso.

From a sketchbook, a Picasso cubic painting on the left page and the red coat sketch on the right page inspired this Carr men's sweater knitted in an abstract pattern for Fall 2013.

On the men's side of the Carr showroom, George arranged shelves of inspiration. The Carr boys, including another brother Peter, grew up in Kerrville, Texas, so references include cow skulls and limestone rocks and Texas silver.

On the women's side, samples are arranged next to colorful sketches.

The men's collection is available exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue, and the women's collection is sold to private clients. All of the clothes have the clean lines and comfortable ease of Zack's drawings. Gone but not forgotten thanks to his brother George, Zack Carr's quest for beauty and a spectacularly stylish life goes on.