A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrates fashion, art and their love of fashion in 19th century Paris. This exhibit illustrates how artists such as Monet, Seurat, Degas, and other Impressionists responded to fashion between the 1860s and mid-1880s. With both masculine and feminine attire exhibited we see the dialogue between art and fashion of the late nineteenth-century Parisian looks that inspired art of the day.
Fashion between those years was at its most beautiful. Opulent fabrics, the corset, tiny waists, stripes, gloves, bustles, and bows, all raised femininity to its highest. This was a pivotal time period for fashion and for Paris when the city emerged as a fashion mecca.
During these years Parisians saw a radical change in their city. Broad new avenues were places to be seen and the department store came into vogue. Ready-to-wear was suddenly available and the proliferation of fashion magazines allowed urban dwellers to see what they could expect in the new shops that were opening along these boulevards. Paris was a place to be seen and with so many choices the bourgeois women might change her outfit up to eight times a day.
As women and men began to look their best artists of the time period began to paint them in their high fashions. The mood portrayed by the Impressionists was one of vibrancy and seductive beauty with tightly corseted waists and elaborate decolletes that were on display in ballrooms and at the opera. An almost party like atmosphere was on display in art at this time. That atmosphere can be seen in Monet’s painting Luncheon on the Grass and in Jean Beraud’s An Evening Soiree.
Claude Monet (1840-1926)
Luncheon on the Grass
Jean Beraud An Evening Soiree
In Bartholomé’s In the Conservatory, he painted his wife standing in a sunlight conservatory wearing a tightly corseted light summer frock. This exhibit pairs Bartholomé’s this life-size portrait portrait of Prosperie de Fleury Bartholomé in her purple striped dress with the actual dress she posed in.
Artists such as Manet and Degas shared an interest in shopping and both admired seeing the man as Dandies in their dark suits or frock coats and cuffs. This look contrasted with the opulence of the female companion’s attire. Monet particularly transferred this interest into his brightly colored paintings full of women and men both smartly dressed.
Some highlights of this exhibition include Monet’s Luncheon on the Grass (1865–66) and Women in the Garden (1866), Bartholomé’s In the Conservatory(circa 1881, paired with the sitter’s dress), and Degas’s The Millinery Shop(circa 1882–86) from the Art Institute of Chicago; Renoir’s The Loge (1874) from The Courtauld Gallery, London; and Cassatt’s In the Loge (1878) from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The Art Division has a large selection books about this time period as seen below. This is just a sample sample of what we own. Click on image to access our catalog.