Sunday, September 23, 2012

Impressionism and Fashion

  It seems I just can't get away from the Impressionists. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that a new exhibit currently on show at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris will be making its' way to New York and Chicago next year.
   Featuring 74 paintings and 37 period costumes the exhibit seeks to show how the times were changing during the Belle Epoque period. Fashion during the end of the 19th century was rapidly changing from the rigid crinoline to a free flowing silhouette. The sewing machine was also readily available and couture fashion houses were starting to pop up.
   If you read my post about Sacre Bleau, you know that Paris was coming out of the Franco-Prussian war and the Impressionist's (and the new middle class) were starting to enjoy a life of leisure. Not to go off on a fashion tangent, but fashion and economy have always been tied together. Just look at the lipstick indicator or the hemline indicator. Hemlines always fall during bad times. I used to think this was a backwards was of approaching things, longer hemlines=more fabric=more money. But, the longer hemlines relate more to economic uncertainty and the need to be covered up and secure than a monetary value. The 1960's and 1980's had micro hemlines while the 1920's and the start of the economic downturn til now have seen longer hemlines. If you look at most of the collections from last week's Fashion Week-longer hemlines still rule.
   While a trip to Paris would be wonderful, I think I'll wait until the show comes to Chicago's Art Institute in June 2013. If you can pony up the money for a trip to Paris I would recommend it, most of the fashions' won't be coming over sees due to their fragility.
   I do hope their will be paintings from Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassat, Eva Gonzales and Marie Bracquemond. Especially Berthe Morisot. In Belinda Thompson's book "Impressionism: Origins, Practice and Reception", there is a wonderful passage about how Morisot was able to capture life in her paintings in a way that differed from her male counterparts.

Morisot's advantage over her male colleagues lay precisely in her experience of living in contemporary clothes. She knew the discomforts of corsets, the inconveniences of the crinoline and the restricting effect of tightly swathed skirts. She also understood the relative irrelevance of looking immaculate when sitting on the grass or playing with young children. Although the settings are similar, her pictures differ from the detail staged vignettes of fashion plates; rather, Morisot adapted ideas from the realm of fashion to the intimacy of the domestic interior. With a combination of careful observation and an ability to make rapid notations of effects with swift, long and nervous brush marks, she achieved the artless, unposed look she wanted. Where Alfred Steven's fashionable subjects somewhat resemble clothes horses, Morisot's women get on with their lives, often with the ribbons on their bonnets adrift. Instead of fanning themselves flirtily, or holding their parasols above their heads as Tissot's women do, they constantly discard such encumbrances.

For more information about the Chicago Exhibit, you can visit The Art Institute, if you are interested in the New York exhibit, head here to The Met.

No comments:

Post a Comment