Exhibitions/ Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity/ About the Exhibition

About the Exhibition

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

"The latest fashion . . . is absolutely necessary for a painting. It's what matters most."

—Édouard Manet, 1881

Manet's sentiments were widely held during the period from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Impressionism came of age and Paris emerged as the style capital of the world. At a time of great urban change, stale conventions had little appeal for a generation of artists and writers who sought to give expression to the pulse of contemporary life in all its nuanced richness. With the rise of the department store, the advent of ready-made clothing, and the proliferation of fashion magazines, those at the forefront of the avant-garde—from Manet, Claude Monet, and Auguste Renoir to Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Émile Zola—turned a fresh eye to contemporary dress, embracing la mode as the harbinger of la modernité. The novelty, vibrancy, and fleeting allure of the latest trends proved seductive. Without rivaling the meticulous detail of society portraitists such as James Tissot and Alfred Stevens, or the graphic flair of fashion plates, the Impressionists nonetheless engaged similar strategies in their depictions of stylish Parisians. For painters of modern life, fashion mattered.

Gallery One
Refashioning Figure Painting

Gallery Two
En Plein Air

Galleries Three and Four
The White Dress and the Black Dress

Gallery Five
The Dictates of Style

Gallery Six
Frocks Coats and Fashion: The Urban Male

Gallery Seven
Consumer Culture

Gallery Eight
Spaces of Modern Life