Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity

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Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris). "Young Lady in 1866" (detail), 1866.
Édouard Manet (French, Paris 1832–1883 Paris). "Young Lady in 1866" (detail), 1866.


“Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” will present a revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries. Some 80 major figure paintings, seen in concert with period costumes, accessories, fashion plates, photographs, and popular prints, will highlight the vital relationship between fashion and art during the pivotal years, from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world. With the rise of the department store, the advent of ready-made wear, and the proliferation of fashion magazines, those at the forefront of the avant-garde—from Manet, Monet, and Renoir to Baudelaire, Mallarmé, and Zola—turned a fresh eye to contemporary dress, embracing la mode as the harbinger of la modernité. The novelty, vibrancy, and fleeting allure of the latest trends in fashion proved seductive for a generation of artists and writers who sought to give expression to the pulse of modern life in all its nuanced richness. Without rivaling the meticulous detail of society portraitists such as Tissot or Stevens or the graphic flair of fashion plates, the Impressionists nonetheless engaged similar strategies in the making (and in the marketing) of their pictures of stylish men and women that sought to  reflect the spirit of their age.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art was incorporated in 1870 and moved to its present location in Central Park in 1880. It houses an encyclopedic collection of art objects from virtually all periods and continents.

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