Hurry down to the Met and see the ‘Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity’ exhibition. On display are epoch dresses, some of which have been restored for the occasion, along with impressionist paintings hanged in stage sets on the theme of fashion.
Baudelaire claimed that modern life was the only subject worth painting because this is the context the artist knows and understands best. Modern life in a painting can be depicted by industrial innovation e.g. impressionists placing trains in their paintings, decor and environment, and clothing. Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity is a display of the impressionist painters’ desire to paint figures of their epoch. Through fashion, they were able to bring the modern world into their art, as opposed to art that was still inspired by classical art.
The major impressionists painters, and other artists close to Impressionism, are in the exhibition (Monet, Renoir, Manet, Morisot, Caillebotte, Tissot…). Less well known but worth viewing is a superb painting by Jean Béraud showing the viewer a fashionable evening in a Parisian salon – this piece alone captures the spirit of the exhibition; and a portrait of Mme Bartholomé by her husband exhibited alongside the dress she was wearing in the painting. Loans from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Met itself complete pieces from the permanent collection of the Musée d’Orsay, where the exhibition was previously shown.
The set staging was one of the strengths of the Paris exhibition, so hopefully it will be replicated at the Met. The visitor finds her/himself in the first rows of a fashion catwalk (with paintings where the models would be), in a boudoir, in a hat shop, and in a garden with public benches and birds twittering. My sister Miss Loulou and I marvelled as we went from room to room passing between impressionist masters and ‘à crinoline’ and ‘à tournure’ dresses!
Until May 27th at the Met in New York and from June 26th at the Art Institute of Chicago.