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Gallery Seven—Consumer Culture

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

Artists' appreciation for the newest styles extended to the trappings of consumer culture. Degas's millinery series—represented by two pastels from the Metropolitan and his largest oil devoted to the subject, from the Art Institute of Chicago—explores the relations between customers and salesgirls, and between women and the objects of their desire. Tissot's The Shop Girl (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1883–85) casts the viewer in the role of a satisfied customer leaving a boutique, in which not only money and goods, but also suggestive glances between the sexes, are exchanged; and Manet's Before the Mirror (Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1876) portrays the seductions of the toilette.

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

Degas's images of milliners fittingly cap off an era when artists engaged the stuff of fashion—all the "pretty and familiar things" of which Baudelaire spoke—in a rich dialogue that unfolded over a twenty-year period. With renewed focus, painters turned from consulting fashion magazines to depicting sitters reading them (Manet's Woman Reading, Art Institute of Chicago, 1879–80, and Renoir's Young Woman Reading an Illustrated Journal, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, ca. 1880); from seizing the silhouette at full length to studying the corsets that shaped its form and the hats and shoes that gave it height (Manet's Before the Mirror, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1876, and Eva Gonzalès's The White Slippers and The Pink Slippers, both 1879–80, loaned by Vera Wang and another private collection, respectively); and from exploring the effects of light and shade on aniline-dyed fabrics to lingering on underpinnings and accessories, down to a single jet earring (Degas's eponymous print of ca. 1876–77, The Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

Their pictures are seen alongside an array of accoutrements coveted by Parisian window-shoppers, from feathered hats and bonnets to lace-trimmed, silk and sateen corsets, drawn from the Metropolitan's collection; and rosette-adorned slippers from the Museum of the City of New York.

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