Musée d’Orsay, Paris
25 September 2012 – 20 January 2013
62 Rue de Lille, Paris
+33 1 40 49 48 14

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 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.

The exhibition includes some sixty masterpieces by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas and Caillebotte. 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.