Art Culture Exposition French culture abroad Museums/Expos New York

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

Frank Cierpial
Post by Frank Cierpial

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.

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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.

Women in the Garden - Claude Monet
Women in the Garden – Claude Monet

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.


  1. What a really open, lovely post. I, too, am just getting into / re-seeing the impressionists (cause of thatd’or) & feel the same of seeing Paris & art overall from a totally new light.

    Glad you had such a good visit to the Met. Their costume dept is fab, indeed.

  2. I’m not unusually knowledgeable about fine art, but I’ve absorbed a basic awareness of the major pieces from their ubiquitous existence as reprints on the walls of doctor’s office walls and the mousepad of coworkerss. How funny to think that the people in these paintings who in my mind are part of a kind of intangible ether of impressionism were once living, breathing individuals, wearing dresses made of cloth and moving through a world as concrete as our own.

  3. As beautiful as the women are clothed and displayed by fashion in these images, I can’t help feeling a rising hysteria of claustrophobia spreading throughout my body when I look at them. They are so tightly wrapped, laced, buttoned, cinched, tied, and contained that it makes me want to throw on a pair of baggy pants and do the splits, just because I can.

  4. I am always fascinated by dresses of the past. Especially those from the Impressionist Period of art. It’s great to see these dresses in a piece of art, and not just in a museum.

  5. Somehow, in decades of loving Impressionist painting, I’ve never really thought about the fashion before. Yes, the figures are one thing, but it’s almost always been the larger setting — the landscape and its light, or the movement of the people within it.
    Now, in effect, it’s back to the drawing board. Makes me wonder what else I’ve been missing!

  6. Well-written post, I really enjoyed it. I live in London and try to visit galleries often. We have a vast collection of impressionist art at the National Gallery with Monet, Renoir and Degas, do pay a visit if you are here one day.

  7. Wow ! Beautiful paintings and beautiful dresses too !! Modern Impressionism sure has changed a lot since then. Now there’s millions of Impressionists and they all paint the same, but it doesn’t look like these artist’s work. I think most modern Impressionists are in a big hurry to finish a painting every day. And most of them can’t draw the figure or render fabric either. The masters are so inspiring ! That’s the Impressionism I strive for !

  8. such a pretty post with even prettier paintings and dresses. Paris has been my dream and the dream that Ive seen is what your line “It is the kind of tangible art that greets every Parisian upon leaving their apartments on their way to work.” describes.
    Fantastic work, congrats on being FP!.

  9. Great post about how art and fashion go hand-in-hand. Check out my POV about these topics at my blog.
    P.S. I am saving up to go to Paris next spring! It’s a lifelong dream of mine to visit France and do like the French do (cheese and wine diet anyone?)

  10. I love art and fashion. When I travel I make a point of going into Museams, many of them are free. Paris is a beautiful City. I really enjoyed the culture there, great post

  11. I saw this exhibition in Paris in the Musee d’Orsay! I loved every second of it and thought it was so well done. I’m glad to know it is making its rounds through the US so more people can experience it!

  12. I have enjoyed your reviews of the various galleries. I always enjoy visiting museums whenever I travel. Keep up the fabulous work!!!!

  13. I agree, this last painting is softer and more emotionally gentle than when I saw it last. There is something incredibly sweet about the couple strolling together with Their black umbrellas

    1. @ Machhapuchhre : Thank you for your lovely comment. It truly is one of the most “quintessentially Paris” paintings from that period. As if to show how Paris really is the city of love, even under the rain!

  14. I am pretty sure I just started at your last photo for like five minutes thinking about how much I wish I was in Paris right now. LOVE Impressionism and if you haven’t been and if you ever get the chance, make the hop over to Giverny next time you’re in France to check out the land of Monet. congrats on FP!

  15. Oh, how uncanny it must have been to see such wondrously elegant dresses alongside their painted counterparts! I love it!
    You’re making me yearn for another trip to Paris –if only I could afford it.

  16. I actually had the pleasure of visiting this exhibition at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris not too long ago. Like you, I was very impressed not just by the paintings themselves or the incredibly beautiful dresses, but by the experience of realizing that the women who actually wore those dresses on display were the muses of the great Impressionist artists. I have to go to Paris at least once a year, the art is like a drug!

  17. I’m a noob when it comes to art, but your post is so open and inspiring! I really want to check out these exhibits now!! Hopefully, I will get the chance to do so, someday!

  18. I really loved this post!! I often wonder about the same things.. Who are all the pretty ladies in the paintings?? And also, when I walk into an historic building I sometimes question myself who walking in the same footsteps as I did?

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