Exhibitions/ Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity/ Gallery Six—Frocks Coats and Fashion: The Urban Male

Gallery Six—Frocks Coats and Fashion: The Urban Male

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

While dress codes for women dictated a full panoply of outfits, the options for men in the late nineteenth century were simple, limited, and for both wearer and artist not terribly inspiring. Artists met the challenge of adding distinction to their depictions of the modern man with inventive cropping or poses and the novel use of accessories (typified by an assortment of period headwear and canes on view).

For example, in Portraits at the Stock Exchange (Musée d'Orsay, 1878–79) Degas exploited top hats to animate the scene and to define its central figure, the banker and collector Ernest May. Fantin presented the famously controversial Édouard Manet as a fashionable gentleman-flâneur, complete with top hat and silver-tipped walking stick, in his portrait of 1867 (Art Institute of Chicago). Caillebotte portrayed his model in different guises—as a rumpled "barfly" in At the Café (Musée d'Orsay, on deposit at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Rouen, 1880), and, that same year, as a melancholy bourgeois gent in Portrait of a Man (Cleveland Museum of Art).