Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

Auguste Renoir, Madame Georges Charpentier and Her Children, 1878, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 07.122

Just recently the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s version of Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity opened.  This exhibition was first on view at Musée d’Orsay and will travel from the Met to close at The Art Institute of Chicago.  But for now, those in New York have through May 27, 2013 to see the show.

For anyone that’s formally studied dress history, fine art (and portraiture in particular), is a significant and necessary reference tool.  While extant garments and other forms of material culture can allow for a deeper understanding of how things were produced– as well as teach about the structure, techniques, and materials used to create fashion objects–we must also rely on images and texts to inform us as to how garments were truly worn.  Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity includes not only paintings and clothing, but also fashion plates and illustrations, photography, and accessories to truly establish a comprehensive picture of what clothing looked like during the late 19th century.

Although one can easily find a veritable representation of 19th century portraiture and impressionist painting at any of the institutions involved with this exhibition, the opportunity to see them all together in one place–and grouped together by type and time period in a gallery setting in this manner–is a rare opportunity, and one that I strongly encourage those who have the time and inclination to see, to ensure that they don’t miss out on this chance!

Left: Marguerite Charpentier, c. 1875. Private collection. Right: Anaïs Toudouze (French, 1822-1899). “Toilettes by Madame Fladry, hat by Madame Deloffre,” La Mode Ilustrée, November 10, 1878. Steel engraving with hand coloring. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Library of the Costume Institute. Both images published in Impressionism, Fashion, & Modernity.

Also of note is a free program on offer at the Met on Sunday, April 28th, which includes a variety of speakers, among them Valerie Steele speaking on the corset, and art and fashion historian Aileen Ribeiro giving a talk titled, In the Street and at the Theater: Clothes for Modern Life in 1870s Paris.  Please see the museum website for more information.

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