Focus on the 1920s

I must confess.  I find myself watching more television over recent years than I have ever watched before in my life.  Part of it is the convenience of on-demand viewing, where any television show can be accessed at any given hour of the day. Part of it is the potential to watch episodes back-to-back, and the instant gratification that comes with watching a show in that way–but the real reason, I believe, is all of the highly addictive period-based dramas that have been produced lately.  There are shows like Mad Men, with characters that one loves to hate, new series like Downton Abbey (for which I am already feeling a great loss, as I know that the season finale is just a few days away).  Not to mention, all of the HBO shows that have been airing over recent years, such as Mildred Pierce and Boardwalk Empire.

This last series in particular– has drawn a great deal of attention for the lavish sets and costumes; and after every new episode, I often find myself going to the bookshelf to research some aspect of 1920s fashion or culture at length.  I know that I am not alone, when I also admit that I have always found the 1920s to be a glamorous and alluring decade in fashion history, and I’ve been happy to discover several current exhibitions that are on view, which focus on this time period:

The Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto

The Roaring Twenties: Heels, Hemlines and High Spirits

Open until June 2012

Born in the age of post-war exuberance, nurtured by the dynamism of the machine and seduced by the lure of the exotic, the Roaring 20s infused modern society and fashion with an energetic modernity. As hemlines rose, shoes became increasingly important for stylish women and many of the decade’s exceptional shoes illustrate the electrifying synergy between fashion and design.

The Roaring Twenties: Heels, Hemlines and High Spirits focuses on the wardrobe and widening horizons of the “New Woman” and looks at how the myriad influences of the period such as cinema, jazz clubs, and world travel influenced the shape of fashionable footwear.

click here for more information, as well as for a schedule of related events.


The Brooklyn Museum

Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties

October 28, 2011 – January 29, 2012

Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wing, 5th floor

Luigi Lucioni (American, 1900–1988). Paul Cadmus, 1928. Oil on canvas, 16 x 12 1/8 in. (40.6 x 30.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 2007.28

How did American artists represent the Jazz Age? The exhibition Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties brings together for the first time the work of sixty-eight painters, sculptors, and photographers who explored a new mode of modern realism in the years bounded by the aftermath of the Great War and the onset of the Great Depression. Throughout the 1920s, artists created images of liberated modern bodies and the changing urban-industrial environment with an eye toward ideal form and ordered clarity—qualities seemingly at odds with a riotous decade best remembered for its flappers and Fords.

Artists took as their subjects uninhibited nudes and close-up portraits that celebrated sexual freedom and visual intimacy, as if in defiance of the restrictive routines of automated labor and the stresses of modern urban life. Reserving judgment on the ultimate effects of machine culture on the individual, they distilled cities and factories into pristine geometric compositions that appear silent and uninhabited. American artists of the Jazz Age struggled to express the experience of a dramatically remade modern world, demonstrating their faith in the potentiality of youth and in the sustaining value of beauty. Youth and Beauty will present 140 works by artists including Thomas Hart Benton, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Demuth, Aaron Douglas, Edward Hopper, Gaston Lachaise, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Luigi Lucioni, Gerald Murphy, Georgia O’Keeffe, Alfred Stieglitz, and Edward Weston.

The exhibition was organized by Teresa A. Carbone, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of American Art, Brooklyn Museum.

Sponsored by

DLA Piper logo

Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties is also made possible by the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund, The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the Steven A. and Alexandra M. Cohen Foundation, Inc., Sotheby’s, the Norman M. Feinberg Exhibition Fund, and an anonymous donor. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

The accompanying catalogue is supported by the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts, Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund, and a Brooklyn Museum publications endowment established by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

NEA logo

Click here for more information.


Cincinnati Art Museum

Art Deco: Fashion and Design in the Jazz Age

October 08, 2011 – January 01, 2012

Art Deco: Fashion and Design in the Jazz Age features The Betty Colker Collection of 1920s gowns. Collecting for over 50 years from vintage dealers around the world, Cincinnati native Betty Galpin Colker recently donated her collection to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Bold art deco designs are worked in beading, sequins, and embroidery on diaphanous slip dresses characteristic of the Roaring Twenties. The fashion featured in this exhibition is placed in context with exceptional examples of decorative arts from the Art Museum’s permanent collection, jewelry, posters, Cincinnati architecture, and original fashion plates from the Gazette du Bon Ton.

Click here for more information.

All information is from the respective museum’s websites.

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