The exhibition continues with two galleries that focus on the white dress and the black dress, and consider the extent to which stylistic choices—in dress and color—combine to make both an artistic and fashion statement. As the poet Stéphane Mallarmé, who launched his own fashion magazine in 1874, observed: "Manet and his school use simple color, fresh, or lightly laid on, and their results appear to have been attained at the first stroke," animating subjects "composed of a harmony of reflected and ever-changing lights . . . with movement, light, and life."
Simple white dresses—such as the diaphanous morning and day gowns on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of the City of New York—brought an air of informality and authenticity to scenes of modern life, as exemplified by Renoir's painting of his nineteen-year-old mistress, charmingly dressed for the country, in Lise (Woman with Umbrella) (Museum Folkwang, Essen, 1867); and Manet's depiction of his colleague and future sister-in-law Berthe Morisot in Repose (Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, ca. 1871).
Black silk gowns—such as those on view from the Manchester City Galleries and the collection of Gilles Labrosse, Paris—conveyed worldly elegance and sensuous élan. The color black vivified sitters ranging from the beguiling bohemian Nina de Callias in Manet's Lady with Fans (Musée d'Orsay, 1873); to the quirkily extravagant artist's model and budding actress Ellen Andrée in Manet's The Parisienne (Nationalmuseum, Stockholm, ca. 1875) and the refined Madame Charpentier in Renoir's portrait of 1878 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926). Women in the Garden (detail), 1866. Oil on canvas; 100 3/8 x 80 11/16 in. (255 x 205 cm). Musée d'Orsay, Paris