Monday, February 25, 2013

Jill Krementz covers Impressionists & Fashion at Met

The entrance to the Met.
Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity
February 26 - May 27, 2013
The Metropolitan Museum

The latest fashion ... is absolutely necessary for
a painting. It's what matters most. — Édouard Manet, 1881

This exhibition at the Met is one of the best I've ever seen. You must not miss it.

Some 80 major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world.

With the rise of the department store, the advent of ready-made wear, and the proliferation of fashion magazines, those at the forefront of the avant-garde — from Manet, Monet, and Renoir to Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Zola — turned a fresh eye to contemporary dress, embracing la modeas, the harbinger of la modernité. Many of my favorite paintings are by the portraitist James Tissot, who emerges as one of the real stars of the show.

The novelty, vibrancy, and fleeting allure of the latest trends in fashion proved seductive for a generation of artists and writers who sought to give expression to the pulse of modern life in all its nuanced richness.

The exhibit was organized by Susan Alyson Stein at The Met, in collaboration with Gloria Groom at the Art Institute of Chicago and Guy Cogeval and Philippe Thiébaut at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris. The show originated in Paris, where it was a blockbuster, and it will travel to Chicago in June.
Susan Alyson Stein, Curator in the Department of European Paintings at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, organized the show at the Met.
Michael Lapthorne, the designer of the exhibition. Mr. Lapthorne told me that he had been working on the installation for four weeks — two weeks for building the walls and another two installing the hanging rail so all the paintings could be wire hung. Planning took years,
of course.
Tom Campbell, Director of the Met. Guy Cogeval, president of the Musée d'Orsay, where the exhibit was previously on display.
Three of the top people at The Art Institute of Chicago: Douglas Druick (President & Director), Gloria Groom (Curator of 19th century European Painting & Sculpture and general editor of the magnificent exhibition catalogue), and David Thrum (CFO).

After its display in New York, the exhibition will travel to the Art Institute of Chicago (June 26-September 22, 2013).
Entrance to Gallery One.
Claude Monet
French, 1840–1926
Camille, 1866

Monet made his mark at the Salon of
1866 with this full-length likeness of his mistress (and future wife), Camille, outfitted in an extremely fashionable fur-trimmed paletot and satin-striped dress.

In a veritable about- face, he made the figure's stylish attire (as opposed to her facial features) the defining characteristic of Camille, which critics quickly dubbed "The Green Dress."

Widely praised, the painting proved both captivating and unclassifiable. "I absolutely did not wish to make a portrait but simply a Parisian of the era," Monet later said of this work, which launched both a new genre and his fledgling career.
Indian, ca. 1865

Cashmere shawls from India and Persia were highly coveted luxury imports, status symbols denoting wealth and respectability. Draped over shoulders or in the crooks of arms, the large folded square skimmed gracefully over the bell of the crinolined skirt.

On the wall: Claude Monet's Madame Louis Joachim Gaudibert, 1868

In this portrait commissioned by a wealthy businessman from Le Havre, Monet's painting suggests that Madame Gaudibert has just entered the room—hat on the table, soon to be joined by a glove—she turns from view so that her expensive silk dress and imported shawl upstage her face.

Monet insists on a passing moment in time, introducing a setting to convey that his sitter was a woman of means, with an upholsterer who furnished curtains in as rich and understated a fabric as her dressmaker.
Édouard Manet
(French, 1832–1883)
Young Lady in 1866, 1866

Manet's favorite model at the time, Victorine Meurent, had recently posed for the brazen nudes in his Olympia and Luncheon on the Grass.

Here, fully clothed in a voluminous silk dressing gown, she appears relatively prim—but she was hardly proper, or properly dressed, for a monumental work, painted on a scale typically reserved for official portraits.

Peignoirs, or dressing gowns, had their
place in intimate genre scenes but Manet subverted convention. He made no concession to narrative or setting. Instead, a few suggestive details suffice. A nosegay of violets, a man's monocle, a pet parrot as confidant: all point to an invisible male presence in this image of a contemporary woman "in 1866" punctuated by a half-peeled orange.
Sample from the Marquise de Miramon's Peignoir. This color—produced by an aniline dye that became available for commercial textiles only after 1860—was the height of chic, as Manet also recognized when he dressed his Young Lady in 1866 in a pink peignoir.
James Tissot
French, 1836–1902
Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, 1866

From its air of nonchalance to its meticulous finish, this painting bears the stamp of Tissot's highly successful portrait style. The marquise de Miramon presides over a well- appointed sitting room in her Auvergne château, very much "at home" amid the Rococo furniture and Japanese collectibles in a stylish, ruffled peignoir, or dressing gown.

The needlework on the Louis XVI stool alludes to her descent from an affluent family, and the terracotta bust on the mantelpiece to her husband's aristocratic heritage. First shown at the artist's behest at the Paris World's Fair of 1867, the painting is accompanied by a swatch of the marquise's pink velvet gown, which was kept by the family.
Charles-François Marchal
French, 1825–1877
Penelope, ca. 1868

Typical of Marchal's scenes of fashionable life in Paris, this painting enjoyed critical acclaim at the Salon of 1868.

Marchal's painting was tailored to appeal to contemporary taste: Penelope, the legendary wife of Odysseus, is recast as a proper bourgeois woman in a refined, modestly cut gown, dutifully engaged in needlework as she dreams of her husband, portrayed in the miniature before her.
Tom Campbell welcomes invited guests to the
Press Preview.
María González is a journalist who writes for Diario ABC.
Fashions by Mademoiselles Rabouin, La Mode Illustrée, November 19, 1865
Hand-colored steel engraving
Day Dress
American, 1862–64
White cotton piqué with black soutache

The crisp, tailored design of this dress is reinforced by the decorative soutache trim—flat, narrow braiding—inspired by military uniforms, which is stitched onto the fabric. The wide bell shape of the skirt is supported by a crinoline of connected metal hoops.

Crinolines replaced layered petticoats in the late 1850s and provided a supple understructure for the ever-increasing skirt dimensions of the period.

A light crinoline, paired with sturdy, breathable cotton piqué, was recommended for comfort while walking in the country or by the seaside.
An installation photograph as we enter Gallery 2: En Plein Air.
Claude Monet
Luncheon on the Grass, 1865-1866

This is the first time these two panels have ever been on exhibit side by side.

These two large fragments are all that remain from the enormous scene of picnickers in the forest of Fontainebleau.

Monet failed to complete the canvas and, unable to pay his rent, left the work with his landlord, later
salvaging what he could from the damage caused by a damp basement.

As the composition unfolded from plein-air studies onto a twenty-foot-wide canvas, which would number eleven life-size figures in contemporary dress (including a burly Courbet look-alike), Monet insisted on the spirited modernity of his conception. He intensified the bold brushwork and lighting effects, and proceeded to adjust hemlines, swap out hats, and revise color combinations and other details of the clothing worn by his elegant Parisians to ensure that their look was absolutely au courant.
Claude Monet
Bazille and Camille (Study for Luncheon on the Grass), 1865

Monet's companion, Camille, and the painter Bazille posed for the natty couple in this on-the-spot figure study for Luncheon on the Grass.

With broad brushstrokes and strong contrasts, Monet picked up such details as the soutache embroidery and bunched hem of Camille's fashionable promenade dress, which is here worn casually without a crinoline and graduates to gray beneath the shadows.

Taking cues from fashion illustrations, the figures make no eye contact with the viewer and are shown walking so that their stylish attire is patently on display.
Claude Monet
Women in the Garden, 1866

To paint this work "on the spot," as Monet later recalled, took a bit of ingenuity: "I dug a hole in the ground, a sort of ditch, to gradually lower my canvas."

Yet for all his efforts to bring "Paris to the countryside," the painting was rejected by the stern Salon jury of 1867, prompting Zola to exclaim: "One must love his era very dearly to dare such a tour de force, fabrics divided in two by shade and sun, well-dressed women in a bed of flowers carefully groomed by a gardener's rake."

Monet's future wife, Camille, modeled for at least three of the "well-dressed women," striking (successive) fashion-plate poses.
Detail from Women in the Garden.
Jean-Frédéric Bazille
Family Reunion, 1867
Oil on canvas

Shortly after the well-to-do Bazille bought Monet's Women in the Garden, he tried his own hand at an innovative alfresco scene.

He depicted ten of his relatives, each attired according to age and station, amid the bright summer sunshine on the terrace of his family home at Méric, in southern France. The artist himself stands at far left.

When the picture was shown at the Salon of 1868, the critic Émile Zola commented, "One sees that
the painter loves his own time, like Claude Monet, and that he thinks one can be an artist even if one paints frock coats."
Detail of one of the many ornate frames embellishing the masterpieces on view.
Day Dress
American, 1867
White cotton piqué with black cotton cording

In this dress, the black cord work is a stylized variation of the "Austrian knot," an applied design (of twisted cord or braid) used to embellish military uniforms.

Here, it has been incorporated into a scrolling geometric pattern to create a contrasting border that accentuates the fullness of the skirt.
Édouard Manet
Lady with Fan (Baudelaire's Mistress), 1862

By 1862 Jeanne Duval—Baudelaire's "mistress of mistresses" and poetic muse for two decades—had been reduced by syphilis to a shell of her former self, crippled and nearly blind.

Very much in the spirit of Baudelaire's musings on the artifices of femininity, Manet evokes "the faded courtesan decked out in her finery, with eyes like shadowy pools," dwarfed by the expanse of her gauzy crinoline skirt, which is here exaggerated beyond the reality of fashion.

The lacy, transparent curtains seem to give veiled expression to the ephemeral experience of life that dictated the writer's definition of modernity.
Morning Dress
European, ca. 1865
Cotton muslin

The crinoline reached its apogee in the 1860s. This morning dress is defined by its wide skirt supported by a crinoline made of steel hoops, and by such features as its high neckline, low-set sloping shoulders, and puffed sleeves. Lightweight fabrics such as fine cotton muslin were as popular as the brilliant white made possible in the nineteenth century through modern techniques of textile finishing.

Considerable care and attention were
required to preserve the immaculate appearance of a white dress, which, in turn, was associated with purity and a privileged lifestyle.
Édouard Manet
Repose, ca. 1871

"Not painted, not drawn, not standing up, not sitting down"—such was the general consensus of critics at the Salon of 1873, who lambasted Manet's Repose for its casual dishabille on two counts: slack technique and pose.

Model Berthe Morisot's slouch,
exposed foot, undone top button, and disengaged expression were deemed unattractive and unfeminine.

Caricaturists lampooned her unbalanced position.
Berthe Morisot
Woman with a Fan (Portrait of Madame Marie Hubbard), 1874

The utter informality of this portrait speaks to the close rapport between artist and model.

A longtime family friend, Marie Hubbard is shown fully reclining on a daybed, her head propped up by pillows, in a semisheer peignoir. Her engaging gaze and Mona Lisa–like smile betray a shared confidence.
Edward Maloney, art critic at large.

"This Impressionism and Fashion Exhibit points up beautifully all that has been lost in the care and presentation of the public self, especially for men.

It reveals the loss of pride in modern appearance, ignorance that image does make an impression and counts for a lot, and it shows our sad diminishment and lack of respect for making occasions and relationships special by dressing appropriately and elegantly. Inevitability, this leads to the erosion of good manners, respect and dignity, as well as the subtle effort to complement one's companions, not to mention understanding of social ritual and appreciation of historical traditions.

It was a time when black could actually be elegant and not just the default mode. Now that 'anything goes' or comfort (laziness) rules, nothing is right or special. Commercial fashions or high price tags do not and cannot substitute for individual sensitivity, a refined discrimination or carving a personal style within a social milieu. Our lives are the uglier and much lessened for this lost art, talent and insight. "
French, 1860–69
Black silk lace, ivory silk faille, and taffeta with carved ivory handle
James Tissot
The Two Sisters (Portraits in a Park), 1863

A benchmark picture for its date, Tissot's park scene of two young women in white summer dresses debuted at the Salon of 1864, eliciting comparison to Courbet and proving no less controversial for its "authentic rendering of a modern sensibility."

Tissot's women were seen as a breed apart. Their "simple elegance and noblesse" proved a saving grace, as they were distinguished from Courbet's unladylike "ladies" along the Seine, and from "fashion portraits with their presumptuous expressions and their luxurious dress."
Installation shot of Gallery with vitrine of fashion plates in foreground.
The black silk dress was a staple of the fashionable nineteenth-century woman's wardrobe.

Flattering to the figure and to the face, black silk also carried a certain cachet because the dying process had to be of very high quality to ensure that the color did not veer toward green or yellow.

Department stores all carried their own exclusive versions in taffeta, faille, or organza that could be fashioned into a visiting outfit or an afternoon or reception dress, like those seen in paintings by Berthe Morisot, Edgar Degas, and Auguste Renoir; or into more extravagant costumes tailored to challenge convention, as in paintings by Édouard Manet.
Édouard Manet
The Parisienne, ca. 1875

A budding actress known for her wit, spirited independence, and stage presence, Ellen Andrée played a number of chameleon-like parts as an artist's model in the mid-to-late 1870s, from Degas's Absinthe Drinker to Henri Gervex's scandalous nude Rolla.

Here, cast in the role of Manet's Parisienne, Andrée confronts us with great aplomb in a rather dashing ensemble. In inimitable fashion, Manet melds bravura brushwork and sartorial license into an original confection: a promenade dress that evokes the riding habit of an amazone, accessorized with such theatrical and historicizing touches as a gold chain necklace, white ruff around the collar, and a jaunty hat.

Beyond her enterprising personality, the onetime salesgirl at a department store may have brought her fashion sense (if not, her sense of good fun) to the mix.
In the foreground, Laura Daly, a milliner who designed the "apostrophe" hat she is wearing.

On the wall:
Édouard Manet
Lady with Fans (Portrait of Nina de Callias), 1873

Nina de Callias was no more than thirty years old when Manet celebrated the raven-haired bohemian in this work. It was painted in his studio, relying on such props as a Japanese robe and fans to suggest the unconventional ambience of her home.

A writer, musician, and muse, Nina de Callias regularly entertained a heady mix of avant-garde notables, in fetching costumes befitting her artsy and hedonistic lifestyle.

Wearing a gold-embroidered bolero over an Algerian blouse, bangle bracelets dangling from her arms and a griffin at her feet, she flaunts a languid and enticing pose. Neither the exotic nor the erotic element went unnoticed. In fact, her estranged husband forbade Manet from exhibiting this painting.
Albert Bartholomé
In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé), ca. 1881

Shown at the Salon of 1881, this painting features the artist's wife, Périe, a well-known hostess in the artistic and literary circles frequented by such friends as Degas and Cassatt.

Much as Bartholomé depicted her—as a chic Parisienne graciously posed by an open door—she was known to be "so welcoming to commoners, bohemians, intellectuals, and dinner guests alike."

Upon her death just six years later, Bartholomé (who gave up painting and took up sculpture at Degas's advice) preserved the striking purple and white dress worn by his beloved wife. Hence it survives more than a century later.
Claude Monet
Study of a Figure Outdoors (Facing Right), 1886
Oil on canvas

By the mid-1880s, Monet focused almost exclusively on landscape subjects. However, he was persuaded to reprise an earlier motif for this outdoor study and its pendant, which shows his stepdaughter Suzanne Hoschedé, facing left.

His expressed aim was to paint "figures en plein air as I understand them, done like landscapes." The critic Octave Mirbeau was among the first to recognize that, in these "fleeting lines of extraordinary elegance," Monet had indeed brought his previous efforts as a figure painter in line with his recent works as an Impressionist: "These are exquisite landscapes, this woman's supple body, and this dress of an unnameable fabric of fused reflections, gentle shadows, and vivid light."
Auguste Renoir
The Swing, 1876

Renoir transformed his backyard into the setting for a modern-day fête galante. He recruited local talent—Jeanne, a model from Montmartre; his brother; and an artist- friend—for this scene painted en plein air in which a coy Parisienne, sheathed in a beribboned "princess-style" dress, demurs the attention of a straw-hatted suitor.

But Renoir's efforts to describe the dappled sunlight shining onto the figures through the canopy of leaves proved "dizzying" rather than dazzling. Instead of hailing the work as a triumph, critics deemed the effect "Impressionist hail."
James Tissot
July: Specimen of a Portrait, ca. 1878

As was his habit, Tissot recycled the white dress seen in numerous other paintings. It is worn here by the artist's mistress and muse, the divorcée Kathleen Newton, as she lounges at a seaside resort.

Newton's dress clings to her in the summer heat, petticoats discarded, yellow ribbons trailing languidly, fabric glowing in the diffused light of the interior.
Claude Monet
Camille Monet on a Garden Bench, 1873

Monet's wife, Camille Doncieux, is as easily recognizable as the mounds of geraniums in their Argenteuil garden.

The same is true of her smart ensemble: the velvet and damask outfit closely resembles the look for spring 1873, as advertised in the March issue of La Mode Illustrée.

Less clear—if deliberately so—is the nature of this elusive scene. It is perhaps telling that Monet painted Camille as a vision of haute-bourgeois sobriety the year her father died. An impassive model, here, she telegraphs sadness while holding a note in her gloved hand. The top-hatted gentleman, later identified as a neighbor, has perhaps called to offer his condolences and a consoling bouquet.
Douglas Druick, President and Director of The Art Institute of Chicago. Jennifer Paoletti and Dorothy Schroeder, both from the Art Institute of Chicago. Ms. Paoletti is the Institute's Exhibition Manager; Ms. Schroeder, the VP for Exhibitions.
Gustave Caillebotte
Portrait of a Man, 1880

Caillebotte often depicted solitary men beset by idleness and melancholy in well- appointed interiors, frequently employing his own apartment on the tony Boulevard Haussmann in Paris as the setting.

It is portrait of a sedate gentleman neatly attired in vest, redingote, and snappy blue bow tie. Hatless and gloveless in the middle of the afternoon, he gazes from a window—sunlight trickling in through lacy, sheer curtains—at the spectacle of life on the street below.
Jean-Frédéric Bazille
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1867

At the time this portrait was painted, Renoir was just making ends meet, while the well- to-do and fashion-conscious Bazille was preoccupied with the cut of his clothes.

Yet despite their differences in personality and fortune, they found in one another—as Degas did in Manet and Tissot or Renoir did in Monet and Sisley—willing sitters for figure studies that allowed them to flex the rules.

Here, Renoir's rakish knees-bent pose adds interest to Bazille's portrait of the 26-year-old artist in standard-issue male attire.
Henri Fantin-Latour
Édouard Manet, 1867

Impeccably groomed in expertly tailored clothes, replete with a silk top hat and a silver- tipped walking stick, Manet is presented as the fashionable gentleman-flâneur in a portrait that
set the record straight.

In 1867 it served to counter expectations on the part of critics who imagined, on the basis of his shocking and unconventional paintings, that the artist's appearance would tally with his fine disregard for tradition.

However, in place of an eccentrically outfitted bohemian, they came face to face with the ever-dapper bourgeois gent.
Left: Top Hat
French, ca. 1870
Gray wool felt

Right: Top Hat, American, fourth quarter
19th century
Black silk
Back in the day a gentleman carried his gloves. Today it's a cellphone.

The dapper gentleman is artist Walter Robinson, whose solo exhibition, "Indulgences," will open at the Dorian Grey Gallery with a reception on Friday, March 1st from 6-9 p.m. (437 East 9th Street, near Avenue A).
James Tissot
Frederick Gustavus Burnaby, 1870

Even in his twenties, Burnaby cut a striking figure: six feet four inches tall, an officer of the elite Royal Horse Guards, a noted adventurer, and reputedly the strongest man in the British army (he was rumored to have carried a pony under one arm).

This portrait was commissioned by Thomas Gibson Bowles, the founder of the magazine "Vanity Fair", which Burnaby helped launch in 1868 and to which Tissot contributed caricatures.

With comic flair, Tissot crammed his larger-than-life subject into a dainty interior. "At ease" in his
jaunty captain's stable-dress uniform, Burnaby sprawls idly across the sofa cushions, cigarette in hand, framed by souvenirs of his far-flung exploits. His more formal full-dress tunic, parade helmet, and cuirass rest nearby. The stack of books and the map on the wall emphasize Burnaby's interest in exploration. He wrote best-selling accounts of his travels through Asia and was the first man to fly a hot-air balloon solo across the English Channel.
Edgar Degas
The Millinery Shop, ca. 1882–86

To a great extent the women in Degas's millinery scenes are defined by their hats. Here, Degas left the figure's role somewhat ambiguous.

In revising and reworking the composition, he changed the woman from a milliner making a hat to a customer wearing a hat, and seemingly back again.

Perhaps the most telling clue to her status, more than her sober, fur-collared woolen dress or the unresolved glove, is her mouth, pursed around a pin, about to be placed on a hat. Drab in comparison to the lively array of pastel-colored hats, she becomes handmaiden to her craft, surrounded by her attributes, with a hat poised like a crown—or even a halo—above her head.
A variety of women's bonnets and hats (French and American) on display in a vitrine.
Eva Gonzalès
The Pink Slippers, 1879–80

Eva Gonzalès painted this pair of pink pumps and the white satiny slippers below shortly after she was swept off her feet by fellow artist Henri Guérard, who seems to have collected shoes and later exploited the subject for a series of satirical prints.

Close in date to her 1879 marriage and evocative of her well-heeled lifestyle, these pictures, never exhibited during her brief lifetime, are thought to have a personal, if not a romantic, tagline.
Henri Guérard
The Assault of the Shoe, 1888
Etching, with open bite, in light red and black on cream laid paper

Silk pumps star in a sartorial saga—as a shoe citadel besieged by Lilliputian men.
Slippers on display in one of the many vitrines.
French, late 19th century
Leather, silk
Auguste Renoir
Young Woman Reading an Illustrated Journal, ca. 1880

Renoir glosses over the features of his future wife, Aline Charigot, to portray her from behind, highlighting her brilliant red hair and inviting the viewer to peer over her shoulder at the two-page fashion spread that engages her interest.

Neither the artist nor his model was a stranger to the world of fashion: Renoir's marriage to Charigot in 1890 brought another dressmaker into the fold. His siblings—a dressmaker who married a fashion illustrator, and a tailor who married a dressmaker—continued a family tradition; Renoir's father was a tailor and his mother a seamstress.

Gilles Bourdos's exquisite new film RENOIR, chronicles the celebrated artist's twilight years, his relationship with his son—the future director Jean Renoir—and the two men's relationship with Andrée, the painter's final muse and future wife of Jean.

RENOIR is scheduled to open in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, March 29 (in NY at Lincoln Plaza Cinema) followed by a national release.
Édouard Manet
Before the Mirror, 1876

In this suggestive back view, Manet shows a woman pulling on one of the laces of a corset, one firm tug or two away from embracing her form—or revealing more, should her hand

A vague reflection in the mirror offers but a tease, tied to a moment in time.
American, ca. 1880
Cotton, silk, metal, bone

In the mid-nineteenth century, fashionable dress may have been vibrant and luxurious, but undergarments tended to be relatively plain, made of cotton or linen and white or neutral in color.

"The proper and virtuous woman," as a writer for La Vie Parisienne admonished his readers, "never wears a colored corset."

Most corsets were mass produced, made of sturdy materials such as cotton twill with metal boning, and sold for between three and twenty francs. But there was also a high-end market for custom-made, lace-trimmed corsets in silk or satin with genuine whalebone stays.
Berthe Morisot
Woman at Her Toilette, ca. 1875–80

Morisot updated the traditional vanitas motif into an Impressionist subject.

From about 1875 to 1880 she painted variations on the theme of proper young women at their toilette, with a lightness of touch and silvery palette that lend an air of informality and a calculated
look of "unfinish" to images celebrating femininity and artifice.

Here, the model disrobes after a ball, wearing a light muslin or linen chemise or underdress. She still wears earrings and a choker as she sits by the edge of a bed, privy alone to her reflection in the mirror, having just removed the pink and yellow roses from her chignon.
A hand mirror (late 19th century, silver & glass cosmetic jars (1874-5), and a fan on display in a vitrine.
French, fourth quarter 19th century
Mother-of-pearl, paper, gouache, metal
Opera Glasses
In the foreground: French, 1890s
Metal, glass, shell

In the rear of the vitrine: American or European, late 19th century
James Tissot
The Circus Lover, from the series Women of Paris, 1885

This work from Tissot's series Women of Paris likely depicts the Cirque Molier, in which aristocratic men amused themselves and their peers by assuming roles as acrobats and clowns.

A fixture on the social scene since 1880, the venue was famed for its impossibly glamorous crowd. Indeed, special sittings were offered for society women and the "beauties of theater and boudoir."
The woman in a pink dress and cunning hat gazing archly at the viewer epitomizes the atmosphere of this "high-life circus," as one critic called it, where risqué performance and the bold display of fashion went hand-in-hand.
Detail of the acrobat. The members of the audience are wearing top hats and colorful hats. Several viewers are depicted with opera glasses.
Henry Lerolle
French, 1848–1929
The Rehearsal in the Choir Loft, ca. 1885

In this rehearsal scene, set in a choir loft of a church in Paris, the artist (who stands at left, facing outward) is shown with family members and close friends.

Lerolle's sister-in-law, Marie Escudier, sings at center, soberly but stylishly attired in a shelf-like bustle and feather- adorned hat. Composer Ernest Chausson plays the organ.

A larger version of this composition (now in the Metropolitan's collection) was shown at the Salon
of 1885.
Day Dress
American, 1883–85
Blue silk faille and velvet on a voided satin surface

Worth set the vogue for combining various types of fabrics in a single garment. Not only did this emphasize the complex construction of his draped and bustled fashions but it also served to heighten their visual impact by taking advantage of the reflective qualities and textures of different fabrics.

The discerning American maker of this dress combined the sheen of satin, the depth and softness of velvet, and the rough matte texture of faille to stunning effect, which was further accentuated by its wearer's every move.
Jacques-Émile Blanche
Portrait of a Woman (Portrait of Madame Henri Wallet), 1887

Blanche's talent as a portraitist comes to the fore in this handsome pastel, dedicated to the collector Henri Wallet and presumed to represent his wife.

As in contemporary fashion plates, here a semiprofile view emphasizes the dramatic silhouette of the bustle and the luxurious cut and detail of the soutache-trimmed jacket, or paletot, as it curves over her skirt.

Suitably dressed for a promenade in a tall hat with stylish fringe curled with an iron around her face, Madame Wallet epitomizes the elegant Parisienne.
Gustave Caillebotte
French, 1848–1894
Paris Street; Rainy Day, 1877

Few works are more evocative of modern life (indeed, as we know it today) or present a more powerful "portrait" of the newly renovated French capital than this street scene, set in the prosperous eighth arrondissement.

Caillebotte takes as his subject the wide boulevards, populated by Parisians from all walks of society who stroll in different directions and avoid eye contact. Yet all relate to one another formally within this tightly choreographed composition in which umbrellas hold sway, creating a sense of decorative unity.

Seemingly identical in waterproof gray silk (and, as one critic noted, readily available at such department stores as Le Bon Marché), the umbrellas conjure E. M. Forster's ironic quip in Howards End (1910): "The angel of Democracy has arisen ... proclaiming, 'All men are equal—all men, that is to say, who possess umbrellas.'"
Jean Béraud
A Ball, 1878

The glittering pageantry of an aristocratic ball was every socialite's dream.

Shown at the Salon of 1878, Béraud's panorama features a throng of women attired in the latest styles by legendary designer Charles Frederick Worth, their sinuous, mermaid-style gowns gracefully undercutting the frieze of men in austere formal dress.
Mary Cassatt
Woman with a Pearl Necklace in a Loge, 1879

Shown to much praise at the 1879 Impressionist exhibition, Cassatt's painting captures a vivid sense of the theatergoing experience. She invites the viewer to appreciate the glamour of Garnier's Opera House, amplified by the mirrored reflections of gilt-trimmed balconies and the buoyant enthusiasm of her strawberry-blonde sitter, whose age and comportment suggest that she is taking in the thrill of it all for the first time.

Dazzled and dazzling, Cassatt's young sophisticate wears a formal décolleté evening gown, tastefully accessorized with a single strand of pearls, a flower in her hair, an attractive fan, and
perfectly fitted kid gloves.
Mary Cassatt
In the Loge, 1878

Cassatt depicts a stylish young woman dressed for an afternoon performance at the Français, a theater in Paris.

Seated in a loge, in a prime spot to see the show—and to be seen—she peers intently through her opera glasses, which are leveled not at the stage but at the row of seats opposite.

In the background at upper left, a man fixes his sights on her. We enjoy a box-seat view, observing them both.

Cassatt's matinee scene offers no clue as to the play on view but it echoes the famous lines spoken in Shakespeare's As You Like It: "All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players."
Auguste Renoir
The Loge, 1874

Renoir exhibited The Loge at the First Impressionist exhibition in 1874. It features his favorite model, Nini Lopez, as a luxuriously dressed ingénue-cum-cocotte.

Or, at least this is how she was perceived by critics. They took her makeup, disheveled hair, and extravagant outfit—striped satin trimmed with lace and topped with an ermine mantle—as evidence of
her status as a cocotte, or kept woman, whose access to ultra-chic fashions depended on a deep-pocketed benefactor.

Her tuxedo-clad companion, perhaps tellingly, is shown in full evening attire, whereas she wears a less formal (demi-toilette) ensemble.
James Tissot
Evening (The Ball), 1878

Reveling in the flamboyant license of the subject, Tissot ensured that his social climber, here played by his mistress Kathleen Newton, would be called a "figure worthy of Worth."

Making a grand entrance on the arm of a gray-haired gentleman, she flaunts a vivaciously colored, body-skimming gown and a cascading train, accented by an ostentatious hat and fan.

Her outré ensemble earns her a condescending glance from a matron, which she fails to catch, as her gaze is fixed on scoping out prospects in another direction.
Detail of gown worn by Tissot's mistress.
House of Worth
French, 1858–1956

Charles Frederick Worth (1825-1895)
was French but born in England.

He designed this Evening Dress ca. 1882. The beautiful gown is made of ream silk satin and net with pink artificial roses and green leaves.
And now, as you exit the exhibition, a visit to the Met gift shop ...
You will be in the mood to buy many wonderful souvenirs, starting with the sumptuous catalogue.

Edited by Gloria Groom, this volume is the first to explore fashion as a critical aspect of modernity, one that paralleled and many times converged with the development of Impressionism, starting in the 1860s and continuing through the next two decades, when fashion attracted the foremost writers and artists of the day.

In a series of essays that examine fashion and its social, cultural, and artistic context during some of the most important years of the Impressionist era—years that also gave birth to the modern fashion industry—a group of fifteen scholars, drawn from five interdisciplinary fields, examine approximately 140 Impressionist-era artworks.

336 pages; 250 full-color illustrations. $65 hardcover, $45 paper.
Notebook: $12.95
Paperweight: $19.95
Magnet set: $12.95
Valerie Steele's book on the Corset is $29.95.
Gift shop viewers: Designer Walter Bernard and writers Louis and Anka Begley.
The umbrellas (or if you prefer, parasols,) are $50.
Laura Daly, who bought one of the umbrellas for $50.

"I think the exhibit will be one of the most successful for the Met as it contains some of the most iconic images of that time. It was great inspiration for me. I am president of the board for my singing group, The Saint George's Choral Society, and starting to plan our May benefit. The music, drink and food will be from or influenced by La Belle Epoque. This seems to be the season to pay homage to this period. The Morgan just opened a great exhibit on Proust."
Scrolling Trim Embroidered Jacket, $175 (Member price, $157.50).
Shawls range from $65--$225.
Bracelet: $175
French Bow Tassel Pendant: $150
Gloves with bow: $25
Ring: $110
Pendant Watch: $135
Mirror: $36
Barrette: $29
Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street; Rainy Day. Poster, $24.
Gabriella Scacchetti works in the gift shop. Perched on her red curls is what is often referred to as a fascinator -- a small ornamental headpiece that fits on the head using an alice-band-type base or headband or even a small comb. It is always lightweight and usually features feathers, beads or flowers. The use of the term fascinator began in the 1990s when such headpieces became popular for wearing at weddings without ruining your lovely hairstyle or giving you a helmet head.

There's a large variety for sale so no excuse for stylish women not to exit the museum on to Fifth Avenue looking trés chic. Sorry to say I did not see any top hats for sale for all you equally fashionable gentlemen-flâneurs.

Text and photographs © by Jill Krementz: all rights reserved. Contact Jill Krementz here.