Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade

February 12 – May 7, 2017 | St. Louis Art Museum
June 24 – Sept. 24, 2017 | Legion of Honor, San Francisco

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, “yet dared to go into ecstasies in front of the milliners’ shops,” Paul Gauguin wrote of his lifelong friend.

Edgar Degas, The Milliners, about 1882 - before 1905. Oil on canvas, 59.1 × 72.4 cm (23 1/4 × 28 1/2 in.). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

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.

Next year the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will bring new light to the subject with the presentation of Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade, 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.

At the Milliner's. Artist: Edgar Degas,  The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
“This groundbreaking exhibition will provide a stunning experience for visitors while advancing scholarship of a little known but important part of Degas’ legacy,” said Brent R. Benjamin, the Barbara B. Taylor Director of the Saint Louis Art Museum. “Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade will complement Impressionist works in our permanent collection, while giving proper context to Degas’ The Milliners, which the Saint Louis Art Museum acquired in 2007.”

At the Milliner ca. 1882 – 1885  Edgar Degas French, 1834 – 1917 Oil on canvas Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon 2001.27,  Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

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. The exhibition will open at the Saint Louis Art Museum on Feb. 12, 2017 and at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor on June 24, 2017.

At the Milliner's Edgar Degas (French, Paris 1834–1917 Paris) 1881 Pastel on five pieces of wove paper, backed with paper, and laid down on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“This exhibition underlines the many facets of our extensive collection, which comprises not only  extraordinary paintings and drawings of French Impressionism but also exquisite hats of the same period,” says Max Hollein, Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The show presents a highly important part of Degas’ work in its extraordinary artistic but also social and historical context. It will be a revelation for many!”

1882 Chez la Modiste (At The Milliners), by Edgar Degas
Works from the collections of the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will be supplemented by loans from many international lenders.

Edgar Degas, French (1834-1917). Little Milliners, 1882. Pastel on paper, 19 1/4 x 28 1/4 inches. Purchase: acquired through the generosity of an anonymous donor, F79-34.The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Ari.
The exhibition is curated by Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Saint Louis Art Museum and Esther Bell, curator in charge of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Exhibition Catalogue

Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade will be accompanied by a scholarly, full-color catalogue  edited by Kelly and Bell. The 296-page catalogue includes contributions by the exhibition curators, as well as Susan Hiner, Françoise Tétart-Vittu, Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell, Melissa Buron, Laura Camerlengo and Abigail Yoder.

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.Published in association with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.