Impressionist nod to fashion on display in Paris

Thu Nov 8, 2012 5:23am EST
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - The bold horizontal brushstrokes of Manet's 1876 female portrait, "The Parisian," convey the raw energy of a new painting style that turned heads well over a century ago with its focus on light, its sketch-like feel and contemporary subjects.

But the star of the life-sized oil is a shimmering black dress of taffeta silk that highlights the painter's prowess - and provides a starting point for "Impressionism and Fashion," a show that runs through January at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

The exhibit brings together more than 60 major works from 1865-1885, when French painters from Monet and Renoir to Degas and Caillebotte found inspiration from daily life in and around Paris, then a world capital of style and scientific progress.

The show - organized with New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Art Institute of Chicago, and sponsored by luxury group LVMH - calls itself the first dedicated to the "determining role of fashion" in the art of the Impressionists.

Besides paintings, it features dozens of mannequins in bustled, tightly corseted dresses, fashion magazines of the time as well as hundreds of sepia photographs of bourgeois women posing in their best finery by Eugene Disderi.

"The invention, dynamism and fleeting charm of fashion couldn't help but seduce a generation of artists and writers anxious to record the palpitations of modern life in its infinite diversity," wrote Guy Cogeval, president of the Musee d'Orsay in the exhibit's catalogue.

Here we see Renoir's "The Theatre Box" - on loan from London's Courtauld Gallery - in which a woman, resplendent in a black and white striped gown accessorized by strings of pearls, poses with her opera glasses, well aware she is being watched.

The variety of textures in her outfit offered the painter as many opportunities to flaunt his technical mastery.   Continued...