Paris in July: Impressionism and Modernity

In the nick of time, I have something exciting to post for the Paris in July challenge. Yesterday, my mother and I went to the Art Institute of Chicago to see the special exhibit which showcases the work of the Impressionists through the “lens” of fashion. Beside each breathtaking painting, such as those done by Tissot, Cassatt, and of course, Renoir, was a glass case featuring the dress worn (or a close proximity thereof) by the subjects:

“Were the Impressionists fashionistas? And what role did fashion play in their goal to paint modern life with a “modern” style? This is the subject of the internationally acclaimed exhibition Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity, the first to uncover the fascinating relationship between art and fashion from the mid-1860s through the mid-1880s as Paris became the style capital of the world. Featuring 75 major figure paintings by Caillebotte, Degas, Manet, Monet, Renoir, and Seurat, including many never before seen in North America, this stylish show presents a new perspective on the Impressionists—revealing how these early avant-garde artists embraced fashion trends as they sought to capture modern life on canvas.” (Art Institute site)

There were hats, and shoes, as well, and my favorite case had five or six bottles of Guerlain perfume complete with the baudruchage. On the walls were painted quotes from famous authors such as Emile Zola. I wish I could have photographed them all for you, but the Institute police were quite fierce in their enforcement of the rules.

In the train on the way home, my mother and I marveled at the way that we had never quite noticed the influence of fashion on the French Impressionists before. My mother said she’ll never be able to look at their paintings in the same way again. Which is, of course, what education does for us.

27 thoughts on “Paris in July: Impressionism and Modernity”

  1. What a fantastic exhibit! I love how they had the dress next to the work of art. What a great way to show the influence of fashion! Thanks so much for sharing those pics, Bellezza 🙂 And, what a wonderful way to end Paris in July!


  2. Oh, what a treat!! I love the Impressionists and have flown to New York with a girl friend for an exhibit. I wish I had known about this. I could have been persuaded to fly in just for a quick visit with you and your mum. Next time!!


  3. At first I was all sad about my waist being larger than the women of these portraits, and then I took great comfort in the fact that so are my feet, and hands, and shoulders (when I compared the shoes, gloves and arms). It made me a bit comforted. 🙂


  4. It's always so wonderful to have one's knowledge base expanded. When I thought of the Impressionists, I must admit that clothes was not the first thing that came to mind, but rather the 'blurry' brushstrokes, the peaceful atmosphere they created.


  5. The Art Institute is indeed a spectacular place. I always think I'll buy a pair of the bronze lions which 'guard' the door, but then they turn out to be too expensive. Even the street leading up to it, Adams, is full of exciting things (such as Berghoff's restaurant, and the Russian Tea Room).


  6. What I can't get my mind around is how they found what looked like an exact copy of each dress. The research for this exhibit, the effort to put it all together, was phenomenal. More patience, certainly, than I posses.


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