PRINT December 2013

Isabelle Graw

Edgar Degas, The Millinery Shop, ca. 1882–86, oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 43 5/8".

THIS EXHIBITION WAS A FEAST: both visually delightful and a work of solid scholarship. Curators Susan Alyson Stein, Gloria Groom, and Guy Cogeval demonstrated with unprecedented clarity that fashion was the secret operating system underpinning the development of artistic production in France in the pivotal period from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s. The show left no doubt that artists of the time were drawn toward the milieu of fashion, toward fashion itself as subject matter, and toward painterly techniques that emphasized the material qualities and textures that are clothing’s and painting’s common ground. With intricate garments, illustrated magazines, and accessories displayed alongside some eighty paintings, the exhibition allowed the transformation of fashion into painted pictures to happen before the visitor’s very eyes.

The first remarkable insight I took away from the show

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