San Francisco, CA
Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade is a groundbreaking exhibition featuring 60 Impressionist paintings and pastels, including key works by Degas—many never before exhibited in the United States—as well as those by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and 40 exquisite examples of period hats.
Best known for his depictions of Parisian dancers and laundresses, Edgar Degas (French, 1834-1917) was enthralled with another aspect of life in the French capital—high-fashion hats and the women who created them. The artist, invariably well-dressed and behatted himself, “dared to go into ecstasies in front of the milliners’ shops,” Paul Gauguin wrote of his lifelong friend.
Degas’ fascination inspired a visually compelling and profoundly modern body of work that documents the lives of what one fashion writer of the day called “the aristocracy of the workwomen of Paris, the most elegant and distinguished.” Yet despite the importance of millinery within Degas’s oeuvre, there has been little discussion of its place in Impressionist iconography.
The exhibition will be the first to examine the height of the millinery trade in Paris, from around 1875 to 1914, as reflected in the work of the Impressionists. At this time there were around 1,000 milliners working in what was then considered the fashion capital of the world.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.
Whether you go or not, the richly illustrated exhibition catalog, Degas, Impressionism, and the Millinery Trade, is filled with beautiful works by Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt, and other Impressionist painters. This book showcases artistic portrayals of France’s millinery trade during the Belle Époque. Though best known for his depictions of dancers and bathers, Edgar Degas repeatedly returned to the subject of millinery over the course of three decades. In masterpieces such as The Millinery Shop (1879–86) and The Milliners (ca. 1898), he captured scenes of milliners fashioning and women wearing elaborate, colorful hats. Featuring sumptuous paintings, pastels, and preparatory drawings by Degas, Cassatt, Manet, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec, among others, this generously illustrated book surveys the millinery industry of 19th-century Paris. Peppered throughout with photographs, posters, and prints of French hats, this book includes essays that explore Degas’s particular interest in the millinery trade; the tension between modern fashion and reverence for history and the grand art-historical tradition; a chronicle of Parisian milliners from Caroline Reboux to Coco Chanel; and examples of how the millinery trade is depicted in literature. Brilliantly linking together the worlds of industry, art, and fashion, this groundbreaking book examines the fundamental role of hats and hat-makers in 19th-century culture.
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