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Sep 25, 2012
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Impressionists' passion for fashion on show in Paris

By
AFP
Published
Sep 25, 2012

PARIS - You can almost hear the dresses rustle as you walk by: a major Paris show from Tuesday explores how the Impressionist painters captured the dawn of modern fashion at the end of the 19th century.


Édouard Manet (1832-1883) Le Balcon, 1868-69 Oil, 170 x 124,5 cm Paris, Musée d’Orsay © RMN (Musée d’Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

More than 70 masterworks by Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir or Edgar Degas go on show for four months at the Orsay Museum alongside some 40 outfits dated 1860-1885, all swishing gowns and corseted waists.

"The impressionists were fascinated by modernity, including fashion which was booming with the arrival of specialist magazines and department stores," said Gloria Groom of the Chicago Art Institute, who co-curated the show.

"Studying their portraits of women, I realised they were painting the same contemporary dresses that you find in the fashion sketchbooks of the day," she told AFP in a French-language interview.

In some works the clothes become the main subject, like the pale pink dressing gown that catches the light in Manet's 1866 "Woman with Parrot", one of a string of pieces on loan from New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Groom went digging into the archives of the Galliera fashion museum in Paris for clothes that mirrored the artworks, restoring them for the show.

She worked with Canadian-born opera director Robert Carsen who designed the exhibit like a fashion show, lining up paintings one behind another between rows of red and gold chairs, as if on display in a plush salon.

The 1870s saw the return in Europe of the bustle, balanced by a fuller, lower-cut chest and tightly corseted waist, to create a curvy, S-shaped silhouette.

Albert Bartholome gives a prime example in his painting "In the Greenhouse", which depicts his wife in a polka-dot and striped white summer coat -- her waist cinched in to an eye-watering small circle.

Manet's "Parisienne" wears a black long-tailed gown, its train gathered slightly to reveal a small boot.

In "Nana", meanwhile, he explores the world of underwear, his model's blue satin corset, high heels and fine petticoat earning a refusal from the Paris art salon in 1977 in the interests of public morality.

Running in Paris until January 20, the show will then travel to New York's MMA from February 19 to May 27, and on to Chicago's Art Institute from June 29 to September 22.

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