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.


Reggie Darling said...

Hello Bart, I agree this is one of the best shows the Met has mounted in recent years, and is a "must see." I plan on returning to it to see it again, perhaps one of the evenings that the museum is open late, so as to avoid the crowds that are (justifiably) thronging this marvelous exhibition. RD

designchic said...

I heard it was a stunning exhibit and love seeing these images. Great excuse for me to squeeze in a trip to NYC!!

Samantha said...

I MUST go!!! Gorgeous.

Samantha said...

Musée d’Orsay is also one of my most favorite places in the world. Let's go on a trip together!! xx

Dean Farris said...

Dear Bart,
What a nice subject to post on. Many people today have virtually forgotten the existence of these beautiful, classic, works, and need to remember them. Instead of staring at their i-fones and blackberries! Like FFF, couture, and cuisine, I suppose since it's not in daily life, it is forgotten, sadly, like forgetting the fragrance of a summer rose- in an old garden edged in boxwood parterres...ps, I am not a robot! :)