Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibition opens today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit presents a look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists, from the mid-1860s through mid-1880s. Some 80 major figure paintings shown in concert with period costumes, highlight the relationship between fashion and art, during the years Paris emerged as style capital of the world at that time.

Artists of the day, such as Manet, Monet, Renoir and more, sought to express the vibrancy of contemporary life through their stylish subjects. Fashion = Modernity for them. Parallels have been drawn between these painters and current streetstyle photographers/bloggers, the premise being bloggers are now the ones capturing current contemporary urban life through their photos. Check out the Sartorialist viewpoint here.

Two galleries are devoted to the White Dress and the Black Dress, quite interesting that the importance of these 2 fashion staples started over 150 yrs ago. Black dress emerged at this time, away from being a symbol of mourning to become a symbol of elegance and worldly sophistication.

Black being my personal favorite, I was drawn to Lady with Fans, a portrait of Nina de Callias, by Manet. As opposed to the prim white dresses, now here is someone who looks as though she knows how to enjoy life. The painting was considered scandalous at the time, to express her bohemian artistic nature, and Nina’s estranged husband forbade the painting be shown.

My favorite gallery is Spaces of Modern Life, where the artists start to capture their subjects on the street, at the theatre, during activities of daily life. The similarity rings out to me, the way the fashion world presents itself today… very inspiring show. Anyone with a passion for fashion, and an interest in historical background, will enjoy seeing this. The garment samples on display are often the exact ones shown in the paintings.

Exhibition Dates: Feb 26 - May 27, 2013. For more info see MetMuseum.org.

photos: Michele K. (press preview Feb 19)