Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity … and History by Norbert Marszalek

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The Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago running through the end of September is sublime. I have to confess that I am a huge fan of the Impressionist movement—these artists were the radicals of their time.

This imaginative exhibition explores the critical relationship between fashion and art during the mid-1860s through the mid-1880s as Paris was becoming the style capital of the world. Not only can we comb through the masterworks by the Impressionists and the paintings by fashion portraitists Jean Béraud, Carolus-Duran, Alfred Stevens, and James Tissot but also the actual dresses and suits by designers including Charles Frederick Worth. What a treat!

So it got me thinking. What if there was a modern day exhibition with contemporary figurative paintings paired with contemporary fashion from let’s say the Gap or Neiman Marcus? Doesn’t sound too exciting. Well, what makes Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity work? The most intriguing element regarding this exhibition, besides the beauty and elegance, is the historical aspect. This show enlightened and reminded me that painting can be about history too.