leanor Foa Dienstag

A Guaranteed Hit at the Met

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When I worked in book publishing, the classic joke was that a surefire hit was simple – just publish a book called Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog. Well, the Met’s latest surefire hit, Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity, is about to open and it doesn’t take a genius to predict lines around the block. It has every element of visual pleasure – beautiful women and elegant men in gorgeous clothes painted by everyone’s favorite Impressionists (Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Seurat, Morisot), plus gorgeous real period costumes and fancy quotes conflating fashion, art and Paris. (“The latest fashion… is absolutely necessary for a painting. It’s what matters most,” Edouard Manet, 1881) It’s a bon bon that everyone will enjoy, as they did in Paris, where half a million people flocked to the exhibition, and in Chicago, where it will travel after New York.

Entrance to the ShowEntrance to the Show

Green DressCamille, The Green Dress, Monet

Between the mid-1860s and the mid-1880s, when Impressionism came of age, a number of factors turned Paris into the style capital of the world: the rise of the department store, the beginning of store-bought clothes, the proliferation of fashion magazines, and the notion among the avant-garde that – as is still true today – fashion mattered. It expressed what was new, modern and fleeting, and thus, for the Impressionists, particularly focused on capturing moments in time, what men and women wore, to the opera, at home, in parks, with their children, depicted the world in which they lived. Or idealized “society” versions of that world.

The exhibition, an international collaboration, was organized by the Met, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Musee d’Orsay, in Paris. It involved seven Met curatorial departments, forty international lenders, and in New York, was organized by Susan Stein, Curator in the Department of European Paintings. There are eighty paintings – some familiar, some not — thematically and chronologically organized throughout eight large galleries, interspersed with sixteen period costumes and accessories, including shawls, hats, corsets, fans, shoes and vitrines of period magazines, photographs and journals.

Madame Louis Joachim Gaudibert, MonetMadame Louis Joachim Gaudibert, Monet

Day Dress with ShawlDay Dress with Shawl

Silk Color SampleSilk Color Sample

Tissot Portrait of a Woman whose dress is in the latest colorTissot Portrait of a Woman Whose Dress is in the Latest Color

Luncheon on the Grass, MonetLuncheon on the Grass, Monet

The first two rooms are a feast of Monets, followed by a room that focuses on the “white” dress, and another on the “black” dress (exquisite), and a succeeding room highlights men’s and women’s hats.

American Day DressAmerican Day Dress

Day DressDay Dress

Women in the Garden, Monet

Women in the Garden, Monet

Roomful of White DressesRoomful of White Dresses

Lady with a Fan, ManetLady with a Fan, Manet

The juxtaposition of real fashions and their painted versions is particularly fascinating, especially because, in many cases, the original dresses are miracles of dressmaking.

Photo of Countess of CastiglionePhoto of Countess of Castiglione

MagazinesMagazine Illustrations of Dresses

Maison Roget, Reception DressMaison Roget, Reception Dress

Charpentier and her children, RenoirCharpentier and Her Children, Renoir

Woman in the Conservatory,Bartholomé plus Summer Day Dress Worn by...Woman in the Conservatory, plus the Summer Day Dress Worn by Madame Bartholome

The exhibition begins with Claude Monet’s “The Green Dress,” and ends with Seurat’s first study for “A Sunday in La Grande Jatte.” What follows are other highlights.

Frederick Gustavus Burnaby,  TissotTissort Portrait of Frederick Gustavus Burnaby

Men's HatsMen’s Hats

women's hatsWomen’s Hats

The Millinery Shop,DegasThe Millinery Shop, Degas

At the Milliner, DegasAt the Milliner, Degas

Period CorsetPeriod Corset

Before the Mirror, ManetBefore the Mirror, Manet

The Pink Slippers, and  The White Slippers, Eva Gonzales (plus originals in vitrine)The Pink Slippers, and The White Slippers, Eva Gonzales (plus originals in vitrine)

Paris Street, Rainy Day,  Gustave CaillebotteParis Street, Rainy Day, Gustave Caillebotte

Evening Dress, House of Worth , Renoir's The Loge in the BackgroundEvening Dress, House of Worth, Renoir’s The Loge in the Background

Black American Day Dress in Foreground and Portrait of Madame Henri in BackgroundBlack American Day Dress in Foreground and Portrait of Madame Henri in Background

Study for a Sunday in the Grande Jatte, SeuratStudy for a Sunday in the Grande Jatte, Seurat

Photos by Eleanor Foa Dienstag

Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity

Metropolitan Museum of Art


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