In the Spring of 2011 I took a course at Stanford University taught by Dr. Brigid Barton about the Impressionist painters capturing Paris after the reconstruction (1850) conducted by Haussmann. Georges-Eugène Haussmann – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
As a lover of fashion, I noticed the details of the beautifully designed clothes in the paintings, so I choose the topic Fashion and Impressionism for my research paper. Dr. Barton felt it was an abstract idea…something she hadn’t heard of before. She approved to go forward with the idea after I gave her a few connections that I had observed.
I was so surprised when Vogue Italia announced the opening of an exhibit September 2012 at the Musee d’Orsay titled ” Impressionism and Fashion” ..–are we all connected by E.S.P. in the universe? Brigid Barton’s colleagues, Gloria Groom from the Art Institute of Chicago and Guy Cogeval, the curator of the Musee d’Orsay, launched an incredible exhibit exploring all the details of the development of Parisian fashion depicted in the paintings and the related articles about stores and journals.
I’ve posted a condensed version of my paper and the reviews from Vogue. I hope you enjoy reading it!
Please give proper credits and link back to deleusejewelers.com if you use my writing/images.
Janet Deleuse Couture, one of a kind, www.deleuse.com
L’impressionnisme et la mode
Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Tissot, Monet: snapshots of everyday life, reception parties on the patio, dances, déjeuner sur l’herbe, portraits that are very far from being formal. Albert Bartholomé Dans la serre, 1881
The display at the Parisian museum is dedicated to Impressionism, the Musée d’Orsay, portray the period between 1840 and 1880 when the new modern and bourgeois France, “fattened” up as a result of the Industrial Revolution, was familiarizing itself, for the first time, with the idea of becoming engaged in leisure activities which, until then, had been a prerogative of the Court. And did so in a completely new fashion, cosier. Claude Monet, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1865
Vogue Italia says: “While clothes are formal, plush and aristocratic in the look, they also confirm the rejection typical of the Nineteenth Century, of loud colours and rococo embellishment. Moreover, what emerges is a certain disconnection between the technique being used and the subject of the paintings, especially those of the later decades: the already very impressionist like strokes characterizing the 70’s and 80’s of the 1800’s seem to strive for a type of modernity that is only hinted at in the costumes.”
Paper by Janet Deleuse written for Stanford Continuing Education Course, 2011
Fashion Is Dictated By Societal Changes, Fashion and Impressionism after Haussmann’s redevelopment of Paris.
The Impressionists, Manet and Degas in particular, captured the dramatic change of society after Haussmann’s redevelopment of Paris. Using their soft muted colors and broken brushwork, the Impressionists painted women of all classes and ages showing the details of their dress. With keen ‘flanuer’ eyes, they captured intimate scenes of the women’s styles juxtaposed within the new and the old Paris. The newly found freedom of movement that the modern Paris offered gives us a glimpse of women wearing dresses for the new Paris and also in the old tradition, thus, revealing women’s status and fashion. Quoted from the journal ‘Modern Art & Life’, circa 1880, “Impressionisme is a masculine noun, Larousse tells us, but in its intimacy with fashion and the commodity it was gendered feminine.”
Construction began in 1850 within the city of Paris by the architect Haussmann. He replaced the overcrowded shanties and small dark winding cobblestoned streets with wide expansive boulevards and sunny parks that gave Parisians, of all classes, the ability to stroll and “be seen.” This was a new and exciting change for women! Finally, it was acceptable for a woman to walk unaccompanied on the boulevards and to intermingle with people of different classes.
Women dressed for modern Paris, they tossed out the hoop skirts (with wire cages) for a tailored style of dress with softer fabrics. The couturiers began designing skirts that were easier for strolling and the department stores soon copied them in ready to wear. With the grand opening of the new Bon Marche department store, women of middle class and of women of meager means were now able to purchase pre-made clothes that were fashionable. The burgeoning new Paris became a place of great commerce, enabling a woman of lower class to save her monies and shop for premade hats alongside a woman of middle class.
For the strollers it was a discrete game to identify, in reference to social status, who was parading the grand boulevards. Any hint to indicate who was strolling by or who one was sitting next to in a café on a Sunday afternoon could subtly be detected by the cut or type of fabric worn, the quality of ribbon or the newness of a hat. Proust’s states, “the slightest details in perhaps the sheen of fabric or the length of the sleeves will give away the status of the stroller.” A Sunday afternoon scene, captured by Renoir in The Champs-Elysees during the Paris Fair of 1867, viewed from above, shows a mixed public parading down the Champs-Elysees.
Fashion became more than just style. In Articles de Paris, the popular fashion journal read by Parisian women of all classes, featured clothing, hats, jewelry and cosmetics. Paris set the fashion trends. A constant renewal of fashion fueled the new department stores. Parisian women were chic and elegant, they were distinctly “Parisian” and women all over the world tried to copy their style and mannerisms.
Monet embraced Haussmann’s new Paris of modernization, his style of painting was modern in itself. He captured the contemporary fashion statements of the women he painted. Women in the Garden is the perfect example. Monet painted four wealthy, elegantly dressed women (including his future wife), in 1866. Every detail of the delicate embroidery, buttons, ruffles and lace within the vast expanse of billowy fabric is painted. One can almost feel the soft sheen of the stylish silk caps tied with long ribbons. The women in their haute couture are enhanced by a surrounding verdant, floral garden–women with time to enjoy socializing. This type of ‘doing nothing’ as it was called, while looking extravagantly beautiful, was the bourgeois ideal of life for the upper class women. Fashion journals commonly associated this type of setting to advertise clothes. The men that supported the appearance of their women in high standing was termed “conspicuous consumption” by Thorstein Veblen in regards to sociological theory.
A viewer feels drawn into the scene of a romantic gathering of fashionably dressed young adults in Renoirs’, Dance at the Moulin de la Galette in the Montmartre district. Renoir gives the impression of an elegant Sunday afternoon, typical of suburban leisure. However, contrary to our current perception– the Parisians (at that time) would have clearly identified this group of attractive ‘juene’ as middle to lower class preciously by their dress. And, Montmartre was considered neither chic nor a place of intermingling with the wealthy. Renoirs’ models for this painting were, in fact, the working class youth who endured harsh living conditions since childhood and were typically from the Montmartre district.
Manet’s, Music in the Tuileries also depicts a leisurely Sunday afternoon in Haussmann’s modern Paris. One can easily identify this gathering as upper class by the refinement of their extraordinary dress. Their overall posture and dress clearly demarcates the differences between the upper class women and the workingwomen that were painted by Renoir from Montmartre.
One of my favorite paintings is Street Singer by Manet. Here, we get a glimpse of the urban underworld– a woman openly walks out of a café, without a male escort, eating cherries while clutching her guitar and her skirts above her ankle. Her modest dress, indentified by the dull colors, texture and poor cut, is indicative of a woman of meager means. The surprising aspect of this scene shows her exiting from a café where a man is sitting wearing a formal top hat. Intermingling with men of different social orders in a café represented a newly formed social life for women in Paris.
With the addition of cafes as a place for social gathering, Manet’s, Café Concert captures this essence of social intermingling. A crowded cafe with a woman singing, a beer drinking waitress (with her hand on hip exerting her independent attitude) and a man and a woman of different classes, obviously not a couple, sitting together at a table is a snapshot of an entire cafe scene. Each character’s class status is easily identifiable by their mannerisms and dress. The painting relays the energy and easiness of intermingling of different social levels in public places.
Haussmann’s new Paris incorporated a newly constructed opulent Opera House and Mary Cassatt painted women at the opera. In Cassatt’s, Woman in Black at the Opera and Two Young Women in a Loge we get a glimpse of the formal dress for the young and old attending the Opera House. The most elegantly dressed woman attending the Opera, painted by Renoir in The Loge is a perfect example of a woman of wealth and upper class. Her jewelry is abundant with layers of pearls, pearl earrings, a gold wristband and her gown is decorated with handmade lace, complemented with flowers. In the midst of this opulence and sophisticated entertainment her face reflects sadness while seated next to her handsome husband.
Although extreme opposites in life styles, a sad countenance is also very distinct on the woman painted by Degas in Absinthe. Her entire posture, manner and dress convey her status of total destitution.
Degas captures a moment of a clear delineation of classicism that can be indentified by fashion and easily overlooked by today’s viewer. A painting of a family in a carriage at the country races, the two women are sitting in a horse carriage on a private estate, depicted by Degas, At the Races in the Country. One would expect that it is the mother wearing a summer linen frock and breastfeeding her child while the other women is looking at the child in admiration. However, as fashion dictated, it is the mother of the baby who is formally dressed and looking at her baby held by the nursemaid dressed in a flowing white linen dress with a white scarf on her head. Nannies and nursemaids were typically dressed in white linens at the parks for the rich, as in Monet’s, Le Parc Monceau.
It has been conjectured that when a women wore a band of black ribbon around her neck she is giving a signal that she is available for sexual pleasures as her means of income. This idea may stem from Monet’s, Olympia, a women looking directly at her viewer with desire, wearing nothing but tiny slippers, a gold banded bracelet and a bold black ribbon with a pearl around her neck. However, after viewing several Impressionists’ paintings of women from all ages and classes sporting black ribbons around their necks, I concluded that the black ribbon necklaces was the current style. Women who are obviously not prostitutes were painted with similar black choker ribbons. For example, in Manet’s, The Railway, the child’s nanny is wearing a black band around her neck. The wealthy woman painted in Morisot’s, Summer is very fashionably dressed in white summer lace ruffles and wearing a black ribbon. With her hat and parasol in hand, she clearly represents femme Parisian— chic, wealthy and ready to promenade on the newly created boulevards and parks. The young ballerinas famously painted by Degas, are all wearing little black ribbons tied around their necks while in practice in Monsieur Perrot’s Dance Class, as do their mothers waiting for them in the background. Women of wealth, women of meager means and of all ages wore black neck ribbons, a fashion statement captured by the Impressionists.
Manet painted several women in contemporary fashion during the 1870’s. He made it a point to portray women dressed in their class status and the location in which he was painting. For example, In the Conservatory, (1879), Castagnary critically claimed it as “the elegance of fashionable life.” An upper class woman painted in detailed haute couture wearing an ostrich feathered hat sitting in a conservatory filled with palms and imported exotic plants. This was definitely the modern Paris, where indoor gardens and lots of sun within glass and iron structures were incorporated in personal homes and public places. Manet captured beautiful Parisian women in distinctly gorgeous haute couture in several paintings such as Autumn,, Spring and in Jeanne: Spring. He painted women in elegant undergarments, as in Nana and captured the boating costumes of the poor in Argenteuil.
Haussmann’s new Paris affected the social changes for women of all classes in regards to the availability of the boulevards, parks and cafes for social intermingling and the Impressionists painted them within this new societal change. The women are identifiable in relation to their particular class by their dress, habits and body postures. The Impressionists captured ‘photographable moments’ on canvas, enabling viewers of today to gain insight to the modernity of Parisian women in the late ninetieth century.
Janet Deleuse, All rights reserved, 2011 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. deleuse.com
Getty Images Photo Credits
Herbert, Robert. Impressionism Art, Leisure & Parisian Society. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. 178,38,19,78,186,128,180-81,. Print.
Wilson-Bareau, Juliet. Manet Monet and the Gare Saint-Lazare. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. Print.
Lipton, Eunice. Alias Olympia. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992. Print.
Jordan, David. Transforming Paris The Life and Labors of
Baron Haussmann. New York: The Free Press, 1995. Print.
Eisenman, Stephen “Modern Art and Life”, Reader Chapter 13,“Manet and the Impressionists: from Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History”, Edouard Manet and Haussmannization
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A journalist looks on women’s clothing of the 19th century next to the painting of Henri Gervex, Rolla, 1878 during the press day of the Impressionism and Fashion exhibition in at the Orsay museum in Paris.
To coincide with Paris Fashion week, a new and highly original exhibit called “Impressionism and Fashion” opens at the Musee d’Orsay. It uses famous works of art to explore how at the dawn of impressionism, and as an emblem of “modernite” fashion, and how people dressed, became one of the main themes in art. The exhibition will open September 25, 2012 and lasts until January 2013.