Posts tagged ‘met’

March 7, 2013

Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity @ the Met

Impressionism, I believe, is probably the most popular and adored of the art movements. When confronted by works created by masters such as Monet, Manet and Renoir, I believe very few do not experiment a sense of awe and amusement. The special exhibition Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, subtly lets us into the backstage of the construction of this powerful unanimity that circles impressionist painting, taking us right back to the trenches from which it emerged: the Parisian high society.

When reading about it, at first, I figured the exhibition would just cater to a certain historical curiosity, allowing us to literally immerse ourselves in the fabric of time and materialize the impressions of textures the artists had delivered. What was waiting for me there was instead a very relevant contribution to the comprehension of the Impressionism movement as a integral part of the French society, an art embedded in the small politics of relevance that we may not fail to spot in the art scene of our days, but we might forget was also present even when the works in question hold, as of present, the status of undeniable masterpieces.

The Impressionist movement relates to modern ideals in that it both denies and affirms the perennial by emphasizing the present, the moment; representation is embraced as such and detaches from the contradictory obsessions for both ideal and reality that permeates art in the days of yore. The ephemerous, the impression, gains immense importance, being, in fact, what is truly worthy to be captured. And portraits cease to function as documents meant for posterity that idealize their objects as great warriors, lords or saints and instead become a statement of their personality and uniqueness: enters style as an immense part of this equation.

The first piece of the show is a very fine green and black striped silk-taffeta dress that was worn by Monet’s wife Camille as she modeled for one of his paintings. Through the subtile curatorship, we are led to understand how the fashion in the pictures would attract curiosity and interest as much as it does now in celebrity pictures and Vogue Magazine. It was the majestic dress that has caught the eye of the viewers in the salon where the painting was first exposed.

A painting then was as powerful a status indicator as being invited to shoot an editorial could be, except the concept here was far broader, extending to intellectual and personal wealth implications in a way that being cover of Harpers’ Bazaar never will. The most fashionable ladies, on the other hand, were also and simultaneously the best sources for great composition — that´s when you realize the colors and the textures and the ruffles and laces were all there, were sewn together by someone and worn by someone else that mattered to a picture because they were in possession of them, and not the opposite — and the finest patrons available for an artist, as they used their influence to get the works in which they had modeled into the finest exhibitions and salons, making sure they would grant their portraits the status of great art.

To be immersed in the particularities of real life instead of the usual larger than life feel I get from the Impressionism movement made me actually feel closer to understanding what it was truly about. Somehow, the ego-trips  inspired by Facebook and Instagram today seem a bit less current when we are confronted with this century old brand of vanity, the same look-at-me-being-tremendously-charming-while-I-take-my-gloves-off-and-by-the-way-this-is-art-OK?-not-just-me-showing-off-my-designer-clothes-and-being-pretty sort of thing made possible by such powerful artists. Who can say to which point they truly subscribed to portraying the mundane, even though they did it so remarkably? It is made clear in the exhibition that the likes of Monet and Renoir clearly understood that, on top of the aesthetic revolution they were proposing and of the truth behind their own brand of modernity, there was good fame and money to be made out of reframing the superfluous routines and interests of the upper classes into art.

(all pictures from the internet due to the fact they were — theoretically — not allowed to be taken)

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