My husband and I celebrated our 25th anniversary by becoming members of the Art Institute of Chicago. I mean, who really needs a piece of silver when one can view the real deal—bowls, vessels, jewelry—from ancient Rome? It’s nice knowing we can visit often and take our time with a few exhibits, rather than ending up with “museum daze” from trying to see everything.
A current exhibit (running through September) which is simply fabulous is “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity.” If you love Renoir, Monet, Manet, Cassat, and others, GO. Not only are there amazing paintings that detail French fashion in the 1800’s, they have period dresses and other attire which are very similar to those in the paintings. In some cases, the actual outfit worn by the model.
There are corsets, hats, shoes; there are paintings that were considered scandalous during that time; and oh, there is a single room dedicated to men’s fashion. (As my husband put it, “The token room. How many ways can you cut a jacket?”) It includes some good paintings that feature men, including one of Renoir relaxing on a chair.
The term “fashion plate" came from illustrations of fashions that were used in advertising and fashion magazines of the day. There were exquisite samples of these “plates,” and apparently many of the leading artists earned money this way.
Fashion was such a vibrant, quickly-evolving industry back then, that artists strove to keep at the forefront of current trends. Often, by the time a painting was finished, the featured outfit--and thus the painting--was considered passé. How's that for motivation?
Viewing artistic excellence feeds my creativity and inspires ideas--a perfect anniversary gift, wouldn't you say?