Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity Art Institute Show Review - Telling the Tale of the Avant-Garde Driving Fashion and Art in 19th Century Paris

Art lovers alert!

Fashionista alert!



The famed Art Institute collection of Impressionist works is currently being married with sister oeuvres loaned from Paris Musée D’Orsay and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art along with sample fashions of the day in the current show (June 26-September 22) called “Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity”. 

Whether you are a fashionista fascinated with evolving styles,

someone who loves art,

or just someone curious about how art reflects the world from which it is born, you will just love this show. 

For many, the only problem will be finding enough time to go back and savor it again and again. 


Featuring over 75 major figure paintings by the Impressionists and their contemporaries in tandem with the couture that inspired them, “Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity” raises a curtain in our mind so that we can see the Impressionist works anew, with an eye to the lush fabrics,

punishing corsets,

and signals of class that helped inspire the Impressionists’ palettes. 


In this collection of Impressionists works as well as more realistic paintings from the period, we see many of the Grande Dames of French high society, as well as the less-heeled mistresses donning their type of finery for portraiture.  We also see dresses and accessories on display that mirror those in the paintings.  

The audioguide to this visit is highly recommended to give you insights into the grasp of detail and thought that curator Gloria Groom and her staff brought to this exhibit.  

Perhaps this exhibit is best summarized by the audioguide introduction by Art Institute President Douglas Druck who says, "The second half of the nineteenth century saw rapid modernization, the transition from a rural to a more urban way of life and the rise of the middle and fashion reflected all of these changes.

"Once only accessible to high society, the latest stlyes were now reaching wider audiences thanks to the burgeoning illustrated press, teh rapidly mechanizing clothing industry, and innovations like the sewing machine and department store.  There were  magazines filled with images that told you what to wear-- like the ones the women are reading in the paintings (in this exhibit).  And the Impressionists--modern artists who wanted to be of their moment-- used fashion to signal their modernity and experimentation with new ways of painting."

The two-dimensional photos of this story cannot compare to immersing yourself in the world that this exhibit creates, or rather re-creates.  Make sure that you have time to linger over textile, lace and color detals and exhibit guides alike. 


The Art Institute of Chicago

111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, IL 60603

(312) 443-3600

"Impressionism, Fashion and Modernity" exhibit through September 22.

Art Institute Hours:

Open daily 10:30–5:00
Thursday until 8:00


Free Thursday Evenings

Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents every Thursday from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Please note: There will be a $15 surcharge ($12 for students and seniors) for Illinois residents visiting Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity during FreeThursday Evenings.


Photos of paintings and installation shots without people courtesy of Art Institute.

Photos including gallery visitors and other people images:  Peter Kachergis


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