Impressionism and Fashion

March 15, 2019    With the current exposure of the corruption of the Universities I’ve decided to repost my research paper that was used without my acknowledgment or consent for an exhibit.  After speaking to several lawyers years ago I was told that this was typical and happens frequently in all courses.  Janet Deleuse

In the Spring of 2011  I  took a course at Stanford University taught by Dr. Brigid Barton  about the Impressionist painters capturing Paris after the reconstruction (1850) conducted by Haussmann.  Georges-Eugène Haussmann – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

As a fashion designer, I noticed the detail in which they painted the beautifully designed clothes and jewelry worn not only by the women, but also by all sorts of people in all walks of life.  I choose to write about the artist’s detailed paintings of the current trends in fashion and titled my paper “Fashion and Impressionism” for my research paper.

 Dr. Barton felt it was an abstract idea…something she hadn’t heard of before.  She  approved  to go forward with the idea after I gave her a few connections that I had observed.

Amazingly– as I was watching the French Television a review came on about a new exhibit opening September 2012 at the Musee d’Orsay titled  Impressionism and Fashion. Brigid Barton mentored the new curator of the Musee d’Orsay, Guy Cogeval, for the launch of his first exhibit.  Many of the comparisons of the particular paintings were exactly the same as I chose for my paper; including my descriptions that were quoted exactly as I had written.

 I’ve posted a condensed version of my paper and the reviews from Vogue.  

 Musée d’Orsay        From September 25th 2012 to January 20th 2013

And, here it is…an incredible exhibit exploring all the details of the fashion in the paintings with similarities that I had observed and written about.

Janet Deleuse, All rights reserved, 2011, Written entirely by Janet Deleuse




L’impressionnisme et la mode

James Tissot, Portrait du marquis de Miramon, 1865

Manet, Pissarro, Renoir, Tissot, Monet: snapshots of everyday life, reception parties on the patio, dances, déjeuner sur l’herbe, portraits that are very far from being formal. Albert Bartholomé Dans la serre, 1881

 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Danse à la ville, 1883

  Claude Monet, Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1866

Paper by Janet Deleuse written for Stanford Continuing Education Course, 2011 

 Fashion Is Dictated By Societal Changes, Fashion and Impressionism after Haussmann’s redevelopment of Paris.  Janet Deleuse

The Impressionists, Manet and Degas in particular, captured the dramatic change of society after Haussmann’s redevelopment of Paris.  Using their soft muted colors and broken brushwork, the Impressionists painted women of all classes and ages showing the details of their dress.   With keen ‘flanuer’ eyes, they captured intimate scenes of the women’s styles juxtaposed within the new and the old Paris.  The newly found freedom of movement that the modern Paris offered gives us a glimpse of women wearing dresses for the new Paris and also in the old tradition, thus, revealing women’s status and fashion.   Quoted from the journal ‘Modern Art & Life’, circa 1880,  “Impressionisme is a masculine noun, Larousse tells us, but in its intimacy with fashion and the commodity it was gendered feminine.”

Construction began in 1850 within the city of Paris by the architect Haussmann.  He replaced the overcrowded shanties and small dark winding cobblestoned streets with wide expansive boulevards and sunny parks that gave Parisians, of all classes, the ability to stroll and “be seen.”   This was a new and exciting change for women! Finally, it was acceptable for a woman to walk unaccompanied on the boulevards and to intermingle with people of different classes.

Women dressed for modern Paris, they tossed out the hoop skirts (with wire cages) for a  tailored style of dress with softer fabrics.  The couturiers began designing skirts that  were easier for strolling and the department stores soon copied them in ready to wear.  With the grand opening of the new Bon Marche department store, women of middle class and of women of meager means were now able to purchase pre-made clothes that were fashionable.  The burgeoning new Paris became a place of great commerce, enabling a woman of lower class to save her monies and shop for premade hats alongside a woman of middle class.

For the strollers it was a discrete game to identify, in reference to social status, who was parading the grand boulevards.  Any hint to indicate who was strolling by or who one was sitting next to in a café on a Sunday afternoon could subtly be detected by the cut or type of fabric worn, the quality of ribbon or the newness of a hat.  Proust’s states, “the slightest details in perhaps the sheen of fabric or the length of the sleeves will give away the status of the stroller.”  A Sunday afternoon scene, captured by Renoir in The Champs-Elysees during the Paris Fair of 1867, viewed from above, shows a mixed public parading down the Champs-Elysees.  

Fashion became more than just style.  In Articles de Paris, the popular fashion journal read by Parisian women of all classes, featured clothing, hats, jewelry and cosmetics.  Paris set the fashion trends. A constant renewal of fashion fueled the new department stores.  Parisian women were chic and elegant, they were distinctly “Parisian” and women all over the world tried to copy their style and mannerisms.

Monet embraced Haussmann’s new Paris of modernization, his style of painting was modern in itself.   He captured the contemporary fashion statements of the women he painted.  Women in the Garden is the perfect example.  Monet painted four wealthy, elegantly dressed women (including his future wife), in 1866.  Every detail of the delicate embroidery, buttons, ruffles and lace within the vast expanse of billowy fabric is painted.  One can almost feel the soft sheen of the stylish silk caps tied with long ribbons.  The women in their haute couture are enhanced by a surrounding verdant, floral garden–women with time to enjoy socializing.  This type of ‘doing nothing’ as it was called, while looking extravagantly beautiful, was the bourgeois ideal of life for the upper class women.  Fashion journals commonly associated this type of setting to advertise clothes.  The men that supported the appearance of their women in high standing was termed “conspicuous consumption” by Thorstein Veblen in regards to sociological theory.

A viewer feels drawn into the scene of a romantic gathering of fashionably dressed young adults in Renoirs’, Dance at the Moulin de la Galette in the Montmartre district.  Renoir gives the impression of an elegant Sunday afternoon, typical of suburban leisure. However, contrary to our current perception– the Parisians (at that time) would have clearly identified this group of attractive ‘juene’  as middle to lower class preciously by their dress.  And, Montmartre was considered neither chic nor a place of intermingling with the wealthy.  Renoirs’ models for this painting were, in fact, the working class youth who endured harsh living conditions since childhood and were typically from the Montmartre district.

Manet’s,Music in the Tuileries also depicts a leisurely Sunday afternoon in Haussmann’s modern Paris. One can easily identify this gathering as upper class by the refinement of their extraordinary dress. Their overall posture and dress clearly demarcates the differences between the upper class women and the workingwomen that were painted by Renoir from Montmartre.

One of my favorite paintings is Street Singer by Manet.  Here, we get a glimpse of the urban underworld– a woman openly walks out of a café, without a male escort, eating cherries while clutching her guitar and her skirts above her ankle.  Her modest dress, indentified by the dull colors, texture and poor cut, is indicative of a woman of meager means.  The surprising aspect of this scene shows her exiting from a café where a man is sitting wearing a formal top hat. Intermingling with men of different social orders in a café represented a newly formed social life for women in Paris.

With the addition of cafes as a place for social gathering, Manet’s,Café Concert captures this essence of social intermingling.   A crowded cafe with a woman singing, a beer drinking waitress (with her hand on hip exerting her independent attitude) and a man and a woman of different classes, obviously not a couple,  sitting together at a table is a snapshot of an entire cafe scene.   Each character’s class status is easily identifiable by their mannerisms and dress.   The painting relays the energy and easiness of intermingling of different social levels in public places.

Haussmann’s new Paris incorporated a newly constructed opulent Opera House and MaryCassatt painted women at the opera.   In Cassatt’s,Woman inBlack at the Opera and Two Young Women in a Loge we get a glimpse of the formal dress for the young and old attending the Opera House.  The most elegantly dressed woman attending the Opera, painted by Renoir in The Loge  is a perfect example of a woman of wealth and upper class.  Her jewelry is abundant with layers of pearls, pearl earrings, a gold wristband and her gown is decorated with handmade lace, complemented with flowers.  In the midst of this opulence and sophisticated entertainment her face reflects sadness while seated next to her handsome husband.

Although extreme opposites in life styles, a sad countenance is also very distinct on the woman painted by Degas in Absinthe.    Her entire posture, manner and dress convey her status of total destitution.

Degas captures a moment of a clear delineation of classicism that can be indentified by fashion and easily overlooked by today’s viewer.    A painting of a family in a carriage at the country races, the two women are sitting in a horse carriage on a private estate, depicted by Degas, At the Races in the Country.   One would expect that it is the mother wearing a summer linen frock and breastfeeding her child while the other women is looking at the child in admiration.  However, as fashion dictated, it is the mother of the baby who is formally dressed and looking at her baby held by the nursemaid dressed in a flowing white linen dress with a white scarf on her head.  Nannies and nursemaids were typically dressed in white linens at the parks for the rich, as in Monet’s, Le Parc Monceau.

It has been conjectured that when a women wore a band of black ribbon around her neck she is giving a signal that she is available for sexual pleasures as her means of income.  This idea may stem from Monet’s, Olympia,  a women  looking directly at her viewer with desire, wearing nothing but tiny slippers, a gold banded bracelet and a bold black ribbon with a pearl around her neck.  However, after viewing several Impressionists’ paintings of women from all ages and classes sporting black ribbons around their necks, I concluded that the black ribbon necklaces was the current style.  Women who are obviously not prostitutes were painted with similar black choker ribbons.   For example, in Manet’s, The Railway, the child’s nanny is wearing a black band around her neck.  The wealthy woman painted in Morisot’s,Summer is very fashionably dressed in white summer lace ruffles and wearing a black ribbon.  With her hat and parasol in hand, she clearly represents femme Parisian— chic, wealthy and ready to promenade on the newly created boulevards and parks.  The young ballerinas famously painted by Degas, are all wearing little black ribbons tied around their necks while in practice in Monsieur Perrot’s Dance Class, as do their mothers waiting for them in the background. Women of wealth, women of meager means and of all ages wore black neck ribbons,  a fashion statement captured by the Impressionists.  

Manet painted several women in contemporary fashion during the 1870’s.  He made it a point to portray women dressed in their class status and the location in which he was painting. For example, In the Conservatory, (1879), Castagnary critically claimed it as “the elegance of fashionable life.”   An upper class woman painted in detailed haute couture wearing an ostrich feathered hat sitting in a conservatory filled with palms and imported exotic plants.  This was definitely the modern Paris, where indoor gardens and lots of sun within glass and iron structures were incorporated in personal homes and public places. Manet captured beautiful Parisian women in distinctly gorgeous haute couture in several paintings such as Autumn,, Spring and in Jeanne: Spring.  He painted women in elegant undergarments, as in Nana and captured the boating costumes of the poor in Argenteuil.

Haussmann’s new Paris affected the social changes for women of all classes in regards to the availability of the boulevards, parks and cafes for social intermingling and the Impressionists painted them within this new societal change.  The women are identifiable in relation to their particular class by their dress, habits and body postures. The Impressionists captured ‘photographable moments’ on canvas, enabling viewers of today to gain insight to the modernity of Parisian women in the late ninetieth century.

Janet Deleuse,  All rights reserved, 2011, Written entirely by Janet Deleuse



All images credit of Getty Images, List of Publications I used for research for my paper

Herbert, Robert. Impressionism Art, Leisure & Parisian Society. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. 178,38,19,78,186,128,180-81,. Print.

Wilson-Bareau, Juliet. Manet Monet and the Gare Saint-Lazare. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. Print.

Lipton, Eunice. Alias Olympia. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992. Print.

Jordan, David. Transforming Paris The Life and Labors of

Baron Haussmann. New York: The Free Press, 1995. Print.

Eisenman, Stephen “Modern Art and Life”, Reader Chapter 13,“Manet and the Impressionists: from Nineteenth Century Art: A Critical History”, Edouard Manet and Haussmannization


A journalist looks on women’s clothing of the 19th century next to the painting of Henri Gervex, Rolla, 1878 during the press day of the Impressionism and Fashion exhibition in at the Orsay museum in Paris.

To coincide with Paris Fashion week, a new and highly original exhibit called “Impressionism and Fashion” opens at the Musee d’Orsay. It uses famous works of art to explore how at the dawn of impressionism, and as an emblem of “modernite” fashion, and how people dressed, became one of the main themes in art. The exhibition will open September 25, 2012 and lasts until January 2013.

PARIS.- Although the Impressionists continued to capture on canvas the constantly changing natural world, their revolutionary contribution was not limited to painting landscapes. Their sharp observation also made them sensitive to urban change and the behaviour of city dwellers.
In their desire to depict contemporary life, the Impressionists often chose to represent the human figure in an everyday setting, to capture the “modern” man going about his business or in moments of leisure. Manet and Degas were perfect examples of this new Parisian, the “flâneur”, the sophisticated, nonchalant observer of “modern life” and its daily cast of characters.
Although they were not interested in scrupulous representation of physiognomy, costume and dress, the Impressionists nevertheless recorded the fashions and attitudes of their time through their desire to present the portrait as a snapshot of the subject in familiar surroundings, through their ability to revitalise both the typology and topography of the genre scene, and above all by focusing on “the daily metamorphosis of exterior things” to quote Baudelaire.
In Impressionist painting, figures and clothing lose, to take Mallarmé’s observation about Manet, “a little of their substance and their solidity”, or, in the words of the Goncourt brothers, they “are transfigured by the magic of light and shade”. The figure, whether moving or at rest, became more integrated into the surrounding atmosphere.
The descriptive reality of the man and woman in the 1860-1880s and of their daily appearance underwent an undeniable metamorphosis because of these aesthetic approaches. On the other hand, thanks to the swiftness of execution, the gestures and play of fabric against the body became more authentic.
Thus, we learn much more about the look during this period than we would from the posed society portrait or the artificially natural genre scene. This observation is based on some sixty masterpieces by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas and Caillebotte. Some of them have not been shown in Paris for many years, for example Renoir’s portrait of Madame Charpentier et ses enfants [Madame Charpentier and her Children] (New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Manet’s Nana (Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle) exhibited at the Manet retrospective in 1983 (Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais), and The Theatre Box by Renoir from the Courtauld Institute in London.
For a better understanding of the Impressionists’ approach, their works will be displayed alongside those of their contemporaries – Tissot and Stevens for example – who concentrated even more on portraying Parisian women and the elegant society of the Second Empire and the early days of the Third Republic. But comparing these images with the real thing is much more instructive.
And for this, a display of around fifty dresses and accessories, including ten hats, presents an overview of women’s fashion at the time of the Impressionists, a fashion that was mainly characterised by the gradual abandonment of the crinoline in favour of the bustle.
Men’s fashion, less varied and more uniform, is evoked through some twenty pieces. All these examples of textiles come from public or private collections in France.
And finally, an important documentary display brings together designs, fashion plates, fashion magazines, including La dernière Mode, a short-lived review edited by Mallarmé, and photographs from the Disdéri studio.
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