University of Rhode Island
TMD 402 Spring 2010 "The Art of Fashion and Textiles"
The question proposed within this summary is whether art and fashion have a correlation, and if so what are the best ways to describe or analyze these similarities. The presentation by Professor Pamela J. Warner summarized this concept through the use of artwork, primarily done by French artists, and offered examples of how the artist connected the idea of art and fashion.
One topic that was referenced frequently was how the criticism of art has changed from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the end of the century. Paintings and sculptures that included people were never adorned in the modern dress of the time period. It was seen as inappropriate to dress, for example George Washington, in clothing that was typically worn. Instead, like in the sculpture by Greenough, Washington is not wearing any clothes except for a cloth draped like a toga. This look is reminiscent of ancient Greek or Roman attire, and was seen as regal and noble and was widely accepted by the critics. However, Houdon’s interpretation of George Washington wearing modern attire was looked at as weird or out of place.
On the other hand, as attitudes began to change about the adornment of clothing, artists began to include up-to-the date fashions in their paintings. Villers Etude de Femme d’apres nature depicts a young woman tying her shoe and posing in a flirtatious manner. Through the use of fashion Villers conveys that not only is she a highly skillful painter but that in fact, she is modern. Interestingly, Villers researched the outfit that she painted on her lady and drew inspiration from the fashion plates that were appearing in the ladies’ fashion publications in Paris at that time.
Charles Baudelaire, published essays that furthered this connection of fashion and art in “The Painter of Modern Life.” Baudelaire expressed two factors that are integral to a successful painter and that in turn create a work of art – general beauty and particular beauty. General beauty can be expressed through sculptures, for example, Doryphoros or Medici Venus. With particular beauty, the painter finds something important and tries to “capture the fleeting moment.” Through particular beauty we can see more of a link between fashion and art because it is the main role of the painter to capture the moment so to speak, and convey this onto a medium. Critics then could easily identify and extract period and fashion information from these works of art.
Three artists that captured the fashion of the times and made a correlation between fashion and art towards the end of the nineteenth century were Manet, Monet, and Degas. Through their paintings one can really get a sense of the social conditions and current fashions of the time. Manet’s The Railroad clearly expresses this with the depiction of a young child, her nanny, and their dog. He beautifully creates a scene that artfully displays the current fashions through what the girl and the nanny are wearing.
As you can see art is very much inspired by fashion. Fashion incorporates many ideals that artists are trying to express whether it was through a painting or a sculpture. Being up to date with current fashion trends not only conveyed modernity but also skill as was in the case of Villers. Some of the best-admired artists of all time allowed the fashions of the time to inspire the different subject matters of their paintings. The use of fashion within art was and still is an important inspiration to many artists.
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