It’s no wonder Vogue chose this painting to headline their February 2013 article on Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity—this 1878 work by Jean Béraud is a fashion lover’s dream. And although the men far outnumber the women, it’s the ladies who steal this show. They preen throughout the well-appointed ballroom in magnificent dresses that evoke the designs of the most important couturier of their time, Charles Frederick Worth.
Worth is widely known as the “father of haute couture” and his atelier, the House of Worth, dressed royals, actresses, singers, and other fashionable ladies, some of whom would travel to Paris from all over the world to purchase their entire wardrobes from him. His work was known for its decadence and attention to detail. In fact, he had a special room in his atelier, the “salon de lumière,” that was lit first by candlelight, later by gas lamps, and eventually by electric fixtures, so clients could preview how the fabrics and colors they selected would look under artificial light.
Such thoroughness would definitely have been important to the grandes dames featured in this painting. Because everyone depicted represented actual, recognizable people—aristocrats, politicians, and others from high society. Béraud’s semi-fictional portrayal of this ball was based on an observed experience, and when this painting was exhibited at the Salon of 1878, part of its popular appeal was that these women were recognizable to visitors and reviewers of the Salon. See and be seen is taken to another level.
Image Credit: Jean Béraud. A Ball, 1878. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, RF 1994 15.
1 day 6 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago CLOSING SOON—Invisible Man: Gordon Parks and Ralph Ellison in Harlem
Two major figures in American art and literature aim to make the black experience visible in postwar America.
Closing August 28—http://bit.ly/2aQrnYd
1 day 10 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago It is believed Van Dyck never intended for the early stages of his etchings to be circulated and was surprised by their immediate popularity in the art market. Finding success at a time when artists didn’t usually show works in progress, these “unfinished” prints helped set the stage for the more recent popularity of works that reveal the creative process. See the prints that altered conventions in Van Dyck, Rembrandt, and the Portrait Print—closing August 7.
2 days 5 hours ago The Art Institute of Chicago #TBT 1983: The museum held an exhibition for the collection of Jalane and Richard Davidson, Chicago collectors of contemporary American realist drawings. Acknowledged at the time for collecting against prevailing art world trends, they amassed a comprehensive collection of work spanning the careers of both well-known artists—like Jack Beal, pictured here with Jalane herself and a portrait he made of her—and lesser-known Midwestern artists. The entire Davidson collection was bequeathed to the museum and saw another exhibition devoted to it in 1999.