Monday, July 08, 2013

Fashionable Exhibit Paints Pretty Impressive--If Not Entirely Impressionistic--Picture -- Art Exhibition Review

Édouard Manet, La Parisienne, 1875
Art Exhibition Review

Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity
The Art Institute of Chicago
Thru September 22
Exhibit website 
As someone who has visited well over 100 art museums around the world, it is with a rather small amount of acknowledged homerism that I say the Art Institute of Chicago has one of the very best collections of Impressionism--and Post-Impressionism, as per Seurat's pointillist masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte--anywhere in the world.

Two other museums about which the same can certainly be said are the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

So it would serve to reason that an impressionism exhibition organized by these three prestigious institutions would be pretty impressive. And Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity certainly is, even beyond the art contained within.

While I highly recommend the exhibit to anyone who finds themselves in Chicago before September 22--note the free admission opportunities provided to Bank of America customers on the first weekend of every month--if you only have two hours to spend in the Art Institute, you're apt to find a greater swath of amazing impressionist works in the general collection. (The same is also true in the Met and Musee d'Orsay, where this exhibit previously ran.)

Édouard Manet, Woman Reading, 1879/80
But especially as exhibit entrance is included in the museum's general admission fee, and at least three of the Art Institute's greatest impressionist works--La Grande Jatte, Caillebotte's Paris Street, Rainy Day and Renoir's Woman at the Piano--are currently displayed as part of the special exhibit, it is well worth any part of your time you can allocate.
"The latest absolutely necessary for a painting. It's what matters most."
-- Édouard Manet, 1881 (posted on the first wall of the exhibit galleries)
Even for those who don't truly have a passion for fashion--uh, me--Impressionism, Modernity and Fashion showcases an impressive array of artists, paintings and accompanying dresses.

For example, the exhibit--which does not allow photography; the picture below is from this article by Jill Krementz about the Met showing--complements Claude Monet's Madame Louis Joachim Gaudibert, from 1868, with a similar ensemble nearby.

Interestingly, this and other early Monet works that are included actually seem to pre-date his foray into impressionism; they are much more realistic than his art would become.

And while are several shining examples of impressionism as I perceive it--by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cassatt and Caillebotte, among others--the artist best represented, both by number of works and, arguably, collective quality, is James Tissot, who while depicting Parisienne fashions in the exhibit's 1860's-1880's epoch, cannot be considered an impressionist.

But he painted pretty pictures, several of which are included in the exhibition (a few of which I'll show below).

Yet what makes this exhibit especially appealing, as I referenced above, is the way it's put together beyond the artworks themselves.

Every work of art in the show is accompanied by a placard that not only gives the artist and title, but a concise yet informative description of the work. In many exhibitions, only selected works get this treatment.

Albert Bartholomé, In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé), ca. 1881
Beyond the dresses, other complementary materials--such as fashion plates (essentially advertisements) and magazines in which they ran, accompanied by a notation that they served as points of reference for Monet and Cezanne--are excellent.

So are the galleries themselves, which try to match the types of fashions contained within. For example, the room that showcases portraits of people outdoors has faux-grass flooring, park benches and the sound of birds chirping.

And while most of the clothes are merely representative of those depicted in the paintings, a portrait by Albert Bartholomé of his wife--In the Conservatory (Madame Bartholomé), ca. 1881--is paired with the exact dress she wore, which he preserved after her premature death.

Thus, while some--uh, me--might prefer the Art Institute's Van Gogh masterpieces and even Monet's paintings of haystacks, water lilies and the Japanese bridge to some of the pictures in the Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity exhibit, the wonderfully-curated show is a rather remarkable work of art in itself.

So try to get to it, even if you have to hustle and, uh, bustle.

For those who can't, in addition to some highlights I'll include below, you may wish to reference the Art Institute exhibition page, the much more thorough Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit section and the article about the New York run referenced above.

And particularly because I found several of the artwork images upon it, is a great website to know about for anyone who loves art.

Edgar Degas, Sulking, 1870
Claude Monet, Camille, 1866
Pierre Auguste-Renoir, The Loge, 1874
Renoir, The Swing, 1876
Henri Fantin-Latour, Portrait of Édouard Manet, 1867
Henri Gervex, Rolla, 1878
Henri Guérard, The Assault of the Shoe, 1888. An etching done after the death of his wife, Eva Gonzalès,
whose paintings of pink slippers are included in the exhibition.
James Tissot, Portrait of Mademoiselle L.L., 1864
Tissot, Evening, 1878
Tissot, Portrait of the Marquise de Miramon, 1866
Accompanying the painting was a piece of the actual peignoir depicted:

Tissot, The Circus Lovers, 1885

Monet, Luncheon on the Grass (left panel), 1865–66
Gustave Caillebotte, Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877
Caillebotte, Le Pont de l"Europe, 1876
Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, 1886

1 comment:

Anna Richland said...

This was a great article on the exhibit - I went over the summer from Seattle, b/c I'd read about the NY exhibit, and like you, I'm a huge art museum visitor. I actually think Chicago had better room arrangements, from what I can tell. More intimate spaces, esp. in the shoe/millinery section, at the Art Institute, which made me feel wonderfully close to the pieces. I too appreciated the top notch explanations - so often there just isn't enough information! It's going until Sept 29 now, by the way. You should remind your readers to go in the last ten days. I'm telling all my people if there's any chance to get to Chicago, to just do it.