Artist’s Contemplation: ‘Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity’ at the Met

MonetLuncheonLuncheon on the Grass, Claude Monet

As I walk through the new exhibit at the Met, I’m immediately drawn in by the paintings of Manet, Monet, Renoir, Tissot and the rest. The appeal of this particular exhibit lies in its paradoxical nature. There is the clash of the subject matter’s seeming frivolity with an incredible depth of artistic expression. Many of the paintings depict fashion-forward bourgeois Parisian women in their new, flashy dresses—another stepping-stone on the path to the glorified individual. But as always, it is not the subject matter that fascinates me when I look at art. It is the expression, the suggestion of production and creation. There was a time when traditional visual art didn’t do it for me. But in the past few years, my interest in it has increased dramatically. Where I used to feel bored and underwhelmed, I now find that art is a wonderful reminder of my existence, my presence.

One of the most wonderful aspects of Impressionism is the blatant understanding that these depictions are not reality, are not a copy of reality, but an impression (and expression) of a moment. In many of the paintings, up-close one can see the large, broad brushstrokes that come together to form a dress, or water, or in some cases the whole picture. One can almost imagine the artist at work; the way the hand moves, the soft yet pointed expression of the face. These works are not precise in the traditional sense. They are not meant to be. When we look at them, we know what we’re seeing. We see a woman in a fashionable dress, a group of friends having lunch on the grass, a pond full of water lilies. Our minds label, but if we stop to think, a painting is none of those things. In the most mundane sense, we are looking at oil or pastel on canvas, paper, or wood. In the most metaphysical sense, we are looking at the purest expression of the eternal present, the spirit.

Someone like Monet seems to have known that life is not static but incredibly vibrant. Like many of the other impressionists, his rich use of colors and broad strokes in contrast with the attention to detail testify to the depth and movement of existence. These artists depicted the popular subjects of the time because that’s what their world consisted of at that moment. They embraced the now and attempted to use it to express their deepest thoughts and feelings.

If you live in New York City or you are going to be here in the next two months, I urge you to go experience Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. You will not regret it.

As always, I welcome your comments. Why does art speak to you?

By Terence Stone

“Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity presents a revealing look at the role of fashion in the works of the Impressionists and their contemporaries from the mid-1860s to the mid-1880s, when Paris emerged as the style capital of the world. The novelty, vibrancy, and fleeting allure of the latest trends in fashion proved seductive for a generation of artists and writers who sought to give expression to the pulse of modern life in all its nuanced richness.” ~Met Museum of Art Website

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Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.

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