Archives for posts with tag: Courtauld Institute of Art

John French, Susan Abraham in John Cavanagh lace evening dress, spring 1957

Photo John French, model Susan Abraham in John Cavanagh lace evening dress, 1957

The combination of black and white in fashion has always attracted  attention. What I find interesting is the timeless appeal of the two opposites, whichever way you combine black and white in clothing, it is always to a striking effect. Spring is in the air and  B & W is the hot trend in fashion right now. So Fashionarchaeology.com wishes to welcome the new season with a post to  celebrate the ultimate colour combination.

A.Durer,autoritratto a 26 anni,1498,prado

Durer, self-portrait age 26, 1498, Prado museum Madrid, Spain

Men’s fashions have not been immune to the lure of the black/white combination. We find examples from Renaissance Italy, but it is the German artist Durer who wears it in the most compelling way at the end of the 1400s. Durer was an extraordinary character. His self-portraits  (which he executed at regular intervals throughout his life) were always intense and challenging, and I imagine his choice of clothing or ‘look’ for each picture was carefully thought out. This white jacket with black trim and sleeve detail is certainly eye-catching, as is the floppy striped hat and the black and white plaited rope holding his cloak across his bare skinned chest. The outright sensuality of this outfit and the way it is worn remains  intriguing 600+ yeas on.

Fra Galgario, gentiluomo 1730c, brera

Fra Galgario, Italian gentleman, 1730c, Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan Italy

Less sensual but equally fascinating is the coat worn by this Italian gentleman from the first half of the 1700s. At a time when pastel colours – as dictated by French taste which was closely emulated in Italy – were the dominant trend for upper class gentlemen, this mat black coat with intricate, rich late baroque embroidery in silvery white is worthy of note.

Goya, Pepito Costa y Bonells 1813 met

F.Goya, Papito Costa y Bonells, 1813, Metropolitan museum of art, New York  USA

Again a coat of black with silver embroidery for this very young Spanish gentleman. Flaunting the latest fashion for children, (the idea of putting children in adult clothing had been swept away by Jean Jacques Rousseau’s forward thinking philosophy some decades earlier) he wears a little jacket, the sombre black colour being set off by the white silk high-waisted trousers and the lace trimmed collar of his shirt.

The ultimate black and white combination for men came with the invention of the evening suit by George Brummel in London at the turn of the 19th century. The first official dandy (as decreed by Lord Byron) wanted English gentlemen to smarten up and wear different clothes at different times of day. He declared that black was the perfect colour for night, as long as always worn with freshly pressed white linen (shirt and cravat). White gloves and a black top hat completed the look.

J.McNeill Whistler, Theodore Duret, 1883, Met

McNeil Whistler, Theodore Duret , 1883, Metropolitan museum of art, New York USA

Black and white clothing does have a less glamorous side to it too. Until recent times, the close members of the family of a deceased person (man, woman or child), would adopt mourning clothes for a period of time after the death of the loved one. The ancient Greeks did it, as did the Romans, continuing in Europe  throughout the past centuries. By the 1800s this tradition was so consolidated that etiquette books were written on the subject giving all the information necessary as to what colour should be worn, for how long etc. Fashion magazines always had pages dedicated to the topic and often included fashion plates representing mourning dress. This implies that it was acceptable to look ‘fashionable’ during the time of bereavement and there was no shame in dedicating time, care and money to looking nice at such a terrible time in one’s life. Today we would call this a form of ‘Fashion therapy’ I suppose.

Eighteenth and Nineteenth century fashion plates for mourning dress show total black for the first period of mourning, followed by black and white combination for the second period of mourning. Often it is difficult to tell whether a b/w outfit is mourning or simply fashion.

mourning outfit, paris

French fashion plate, 1780s, Paris, France

Il corriere delle dame,  moda d'italia,  1808

Il Corriere delle Dame, 1808, Italy

Le Journal des dames et des Modes, 1830

Les Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1830, Paris, France

journal des demoiselles, agoust, 1867

Journal des Demoiselles, august 1867, Paris, France

And then there is black and white for the sheer  pleasure of it. The strength exuded by the next few images speak for itself:

Correggio, lady,1517-19.Hermitage,  St.Pet

Correggio, Lady, 1517-19c, Hermitage museum, St Petersburg,  Russia

partrait of a lady, french, Bonhams

French school, lady, 1560c, Bonhams UK

Alathea Talbot, countess of Arundel and Surrey, 1605c

British school, Alathea Talbot countess of Arundel and Surrey,1619c, Ingestre Hall, UK

A.Renoir, Il palco, 1874, Court. gal lon

A.Renoir, box at the theatre, 1874, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

corset, 1905c, museum of decorative arts, Prague

Corset, 1905, museum of decorative arts, Prague, Czech Republic

Worth, abito ballo, 1898-1900, CI Met

C.F.Worth, ball dress, 1890s Paris, Metropolitan museum of art, New York USA

bozzetto Lanvin,1929

Jean Lanvin, 1929

Ladies Home Journal, 1958

Ladies Home Journal, 1958, USA

Vogue Foale e Tuffin,wool suit,1964         Foale e Tuffin,wool suit,1964,VA

Vogue UK, Foale and Tuffin suit, 1964 (suit in Victoria and Albert museum, London UK)

Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel,AI 1991-92

Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel, 1991-2, Paris

 

 

 

 

 

 

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woman-washing-her-hair

Women washing their hair appears to be a constant subject matter in the history of art, chosen by artists worldwide over the centuries.

So why did (and do) artists return to this subject matter again and again? I may not have the answer here and now, but I have noticed that some artists prefer to show the face, others to hide it. This is a relevant aspect as it ultimately gives us a clue to the cultural context that the work is coming from.

Male artist/female model  is the predominant scenario we are faced with. When  the artist decides to hide the woman’s face, he is acting as passive onlooker . In this case,  we as viewers, are invited to share a voyeuristic,  peep from-the-keyhole moment with the artist. This leaves me (as a woman) uneasy with the work of art, however beautifully produced. The word ‘objectification’ comes to mind…

In many works however we do find a different perspective. Male artist/female model, but the model’s face is visible, occasionally even turned to look at the viewer. In this case we – male or female onlooker – are invited to watch the private ritual taking place. The turn of the head can make the difference between consuming the image and willingly sharing the moment. A moment which can be of sheer beauty (the fluid curves of the body and the pure sensuality of the tactile experience, the fingers running through the strands of wet hair) mixed with the intimacy of the act, all make for a beautiful  aesthetic experience.

A.Allori,affresco,donne al balcone che lavano i capelli, 1589, loggetta di Palazzo Pitti FI

Alessandro Allori, frescoed ceiling,1589,  Logetta of Pitti Place, Florence IT

The above image is probably the first truly celebratory representation in western art of women washing their hair.  Before the Italian Renaissance, female hair had been literally hidden from sight. It was taboo to show it, let alone represent the washing of it. Allori seems to have been very taken with women in this private and informal state, he is inspired by it for a religious painting of the following year where the Madonna is shown with her hair down and a linen towel still draped across her shoulders as though caught in the act.

A.Allori,madonna incoronata da bambin gesu, 1590,Palazzo Pitti FI

A. Allori, the Madonna crowned by Baby Jesus, 1590, Palazzo Pitti gallery, Florence IT

Documentary evidence tells us that during the 1500s high-ranking Italian ladies used to reserve a day of the week for hair washing.  A strictly female, informal, moment where women socialized and relaxed, as well as washed their hair. The hair would be dried in front of the fire while chatting the time away. The image below represents just such a moment

Guercino, two women drying their hair in front of a fire, 1636c, c.I. art lon UK

Guercino, two women drying their hair in front of a fire, 1636c, Courtauld Institute,  London UK

The fact that Guercino is there, observing, brings us back to the question  of why artists wanted to represent this subject matter. The need to know the secret, to know what really happens during this all female ritual? Or does it become an excuse to draw the female body in such an interesting position?

Japanese artists have often returned to this theme in art:

Suzuki Harunobu, two women washing their hair, 1767-68, MFA boston

Suzuki Harunobu, two women washing their hair, 1767-8, Mus of Fine Arts Boston, USA

And early 20th century Japanese artist Hashiguchi Goyo:

Hashiguchi Goyo, woman washing her hair, 1920, MFA Boston

washing the hair…

Goyo_Hashiguchi-No_Series-Woman_Combing_her_Hair-00034149-110225-F12

combing the wet hair through…

Russian émigré artist Aleksander Yakovlev:

Aleksandr Yakovlev, model washing her hair, 1929, Brooklyn mus NY

Aleksander Yakovlev, model washing her hair, 1929, Brooklyn museum, New York USA

And London artist Walter R. Sickert who paints a french model in Paris, but decides not to show us the head at all…

Woman Washing her Hair 1906 by Walter Richard Sickert 1860-1942

Chardin, sealing a letter,1733,Schloss Charlot. Berlin

Chardin, sealing the letter, 1733, Schloss Charlottenburg,  Berlin Germany

In this post I want to concentrate on the attention seeking aspect of stripe fashion. As we have seen there have been “stripe moments” in the history of dress for centuries, but what seems to be the common denominator is the desire (during these particular fashion moments) to attract  attention, through clothing, to one’s person. The optical power of stripes – they relentlessly engage the eye – comes to represent the “power” of the wearer in society. Although it must be said that stripes were not just for the rich and famous, they were adopted as attention seekers at all levels of western society in the past just as they are today. The ability to get people to talk about you, even if it is just about your clothing, should never be underestimated.

robe retroussée dans les poches,1780c,KCI

Robe retroussé dans les poches ,France, 1780c, Kyoto Costume Institute, Japan

By the 1700s we really see the art of Look at Me stripes being worked into the boldest female wardrobes

gior nuove mode fr e ingh 1787

Il giornale delle nuove mode francesi ed Inglesi, 1787, Italy, Coll. Bertarelli, Castello Sforzesco, Milan IT

Moda all'inglese, Mag.des modes nouvelles 1789

Magasine des modes nouvelles, 1789, Paris

The craze for stripes can be seen in the last issues of french fashion magazines before the revolution of 1789. Both women and men wore striped clothing and/or accessories.

Rose Adelaide Ducreux, autoritratto, 1790c,met NY

Rose Adelaide Ducreux, self-portrait, 1790, Mertopolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

The fad returns bold and bright in the second half of the 1800s:

A.Renoir, Il palco, 1874, Court. gal lon

A. Renoir, At the theatre, 1874, Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK

Great beauties, ladies or courtesans alike, wore stripes. But also old ladies who still felt like making a fashion statement despite their advanced age and faded beauty

foto Primoli,Contessa Primoli Bonaparte,CRAA

Countess Primoli Bonaparte, C.R.A.A., Milan, Italy