Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity
Paris has always been a city loved by artists. How can it not be? Paris is beautiful twenty four hours a day in every light. In Paris, art is everywhere. From every building to every café crème, beauty is a big part of life in Paris. New York is the opposite. In New York, art is basically confined to Art Galleries in Chelsea and museums. Please do not miss-understand, New York has its own art and beauty, but it is not as visible and tangible as the art in Paris.
On my second day of spring break, I was brought to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. My friend Jaclyn and I walked through the hallways filled to the brim with European, Roman, and Greek art and felt the soft cultural touch of the old world. Then we got to the special exhibit. The exhibit that this article is centered around, the exhibit that was comparable to me getting on a plane, putting my tray in a an upright position, leaning back, and taking off back to the place that showed me the beauty of art for the first time 5 years ago. I saw Paris for the first time through a very unique lens. I saw Paris through the lens of someone who didn’t know what to expect. I was 17, and I acted like Keanu Reeves in “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, needless to say art was not in my repertoire. But, before I go into the exhibit and what I saw, I would like to give some background on Impressionism and what impressionism is.
In its time, Impressionism was a very controversial subject. Some writers thought it was incomplete and did not understand its sketch-like and creative appearance. But, other writers saw it as a depiction of modern life. That is exactly what Claude Monet and his contemporaries were trying to accomplish. Impressionism is considered to be a new way of looking at life, to quote my friend Jaclyn “not exactly what is there, but the way the artist sees it”. Impressionism is a long and complicated subject that I can write you pages and pages on. But, I’ll save that for my book. Right now, I’ll just cut to the chase about what I saw.
Just so you all know, you are not allowed to take pictures inside of the exhibit. The exhibit itself is the perfect mix of fashion and art. Fashionistas and Art Junkies converge at this exhibit to get their fill of impressionism and fashion. It was the perfect mix of Art, Fashion and History. It worked like this, on the walls of the gallery would be the impressionist paintings (all having to do with fashion either paintings of gowns or suits), and next to the paintings would be a live version of what was in the painting. It was incredible! Like I usually do, I chose my three favorites. I had to get all of my pictures from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website.
Claude Monet is a very special artist. He lead the revolution if impressionism and earned his name as “Le pere d’impressionisme.” This is one of his most famous paintings, which has its home in La Musee D’Orsay in Paris. In Paris, other works by Monet also live in Le Louvre and L’Orangerie. This is called “Femmes au Jardin”. I love this painting, I always did. You can imagine my excitement when I saw this gown enclosed in a glass case next to it.
Does this dress look familiar? This is the dress on the woman kneeling down. As I looked at both of these things, I felt as if the woman in the painting was there, in front of me. Whenever I look at Art from an earlier time, I cannot help but wonder about the model. Who was this person? How did they get into this picture? What were they like? I would love to have a conversation with one of them. None of those questions got answered by the mannequin inside of that dress, but it was incredible to see the dress and see how the dress and the painting were inspired by each other. This wasn’t the exact dress that Monet painted, but it was luminous with inspiration.
In this next example, we have a portrait by Albert Bartholome that featured a very chic purple and white printed dress with stripes and polka dots. Albert Batholome is a Parisian Artist who can be visited in the infamous Pere Lachaise cemetery. Albert Bartholomome did a lot of work with sculptures and worked on sculptures all around The City of Lights. One that can still be seen in the Pere Lachaise cemetery is “Le momument aux Morts” after it was brought by the city of Paris and moved to Pere Lachaise in the 20th Arrondissement. You know what they say, “Behind every great man, there is a great woman”. This great woman was Madame Bartholome. And the exact dress that she wore in the painting is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
his was the dress worn by Madam Bartholome, and it was incredible to see this person. This collection of fabric has seen some of the most important people in France and is now seen by everybody in New York. It is admired by all of those New York people that I was talking about before. FIT students, Historians, and Art Junkies see this and keep this dress alive.
This last painting really touched me. It showed me the beauty of the place that I call home and the place that I made my own. Wherever I am in Paris, my visual senses are always incredibly pleased, not only with myself and what Paris represents to me, but what Paris represents to all of its habitants and the people who built it. In my opinion, they were all artists who created the most profound work of art that the world has ever seen, nothing on this planet can compare. It is not the kind of art that can be placed in a museum or can be placed behind glass. It is better. It is the kind of tangible art that greets every Parisian upon leaving their apartments on their way to work. It is the kind of art that can lift spirits after a horrible day. It is the kind of art that can take a depressed, repressed, scared 17 year old and show him that he can be more than what he was allowing himself to be, show him that there is a place in this world where he belongs, and drives him to go beyond his wildest dreams to achieve a very important goal. That I know first hand, and the soul of that manifested itself as a tear running down my cheek I the Metropolitan Museum of Art.