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[Fwd: [E_LIST] NYTimes.com Article: The Folds Hinted More Than They Hid]

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  • marshamclean@rogers.com
    This is cool, and there s also a website: http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/exhibitions/fabric/default.htm Madinia
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 31, 2002
      This is cool, and there's also a website:
      > LONDON
      > THERE is something faintly subversive about "Fabric of
      > Vision: Dress and Drapery in Painting," the new show at
      > London's National Gallery. Instead of looking at whole
      > paintings, you end up studying their component parts and,
      > yes, the yards of cloth that for centuries provided the
      > mise-en-scËne of most figurative art. Indeed, from the
      > Renaissance to the 18th century, more canvas was devoted to
      > the depiction of fabric than to anything else.
      > What better place to start than the fold? Early Renaissance
      > painting was religious and, as such, portrayed people in
      > flowing robes. The compositions were invariably static, yet
      > the folds of the cloth added life. For inspiration, artists
      > turned to Greek statuary, so remarkable in depicting even
      > transparent fabric as it clings to the naked body. By the
      > 15th century, painters had caught on. Flawless depiction of
      > the fold became a testimony to virtuosity.
      > Then fabric itself took off and artists hurried to keep up.
      > To velvet, satin, lace and the silk newly imported from the
      > East were added gold and other metallic thread, complex
      > woven patterns and fresh shades of color, all of which
      > served to enliven the non-religious figurative art now
      > appearing in Italy and northern Europe. Fabric meant
      > fashion, and painting served as a bridge between the two.
      > In "Fabric of Vision," which runs here through Sept. 8,
      > Anne Hollander, the American historian of art and costume
      > who wrote the seminal "Seeing Through Clothes," has gone a
      > step further. Through a display of more than 70 works of
      > art, many from the National Gallery's own collection, she
      > sets out to demonstrate how, from the Renaissance to the
      > 20th century, clothing and drapery were central to the way
      > that artists expressed emotion and created drama. Fabric
      > was more than dÈcor; it became part of the story.
      > The story in question, for some British art critics, is
      > sex. Certainly, as painting became more sophisticated, it
      > was apparent that a bare shoulder, naked thigh or
      > suggestive cleavage was more sexy than the saintly nudes
      > and goddesses of the early Renaissance. By showing real
      > clothes worn by real women, even when the depicted scenes
      > were allegorical, the artist's intent to titillate was
      > often self-evident.
      > "It is one of the most engaging of art-historical
      > hypocrisies not to admit openly that so much great art,
      > from the Pharaohs and the Greeks to the present day, was
      > made to serve a clear, if sometimes incidental, erotic
      > purpose, and much of it had no other purpose," William
      > Packer, the art critic of The Financial Times, wrote in his
      > review of the show.
      > Ms. Hollander, who organized this show and wrote the
      > accompanying catalog, offers a wider view. For her, fabric
      > in art reflects every era's fashion, power, social status
      > and taste as well as sexual mores. She dwells on three
      > periods - the Renaissance, early 19th-century Romanticism
      > and the 20th century - yet in a sense the narrative is
      > continuous. "Just as painted landscape has shown us ways to
      > look at scenery," she writes, "so painted clothing has
      > shown us how clothes contribute to the way human life
      > looks."
      > The exhibition is organized into nine small sections, each
      > looking at how dress and drapery related to the society of
      > their day. Surprisingly, perhaps, Ms. Hollander does not
      > focus on the changing techniques used by painters to show
      > fabric. Rather, her interest is in the expressive role of
      > painted clothing, how it acts like an orchestra whose
      > function is to draw attention to the soloist. Here, the
      > soloist is usually a face or a body.
      > The show opens with "Nude and Mode," in which four pairs of
      > paintings from four different centuries suggest that the
      > nude woman is often portrayed as if she were wearing the
      > ghost of an absent dress. In other words, it was fashion
      > that determined the idealized shape of the body.
      > Thus, Jacob Ochtervelt's "Woman Playing a Virginal"
      > (1675-1680) shows a rear view of a woman with bare
      > shoulders wearing a red satin dress that emphasizes her
      > waist and broad hips. Beside it hangs Jacob Jordaens's
      > "King Candaules of Lydia Showing His Wife to Gyges" (1646),
      > where a similar rear view of a woman now displays a naked
      > torso and guides the eye to her large buttocks. The
      > implication is that without clothes, Ochtervelt's woman
      > might look like Jordaens's model. For the 20th century, a
      > similar parallel is made between Kees van Dongen's
      > "Comtesse de Noailles" and Bonnard's "Standing Nude": slim
      > fashions established the vogue for slim bodies.
      > "Fabric of Vision" then follows a chronological path, with
      > Greek statues underlining the link between the classical
      > model and the portrayal of fabric in the Early Renaissance.
      > Andrea Mantegna's "Virgin and Child," painted around
      > 1490-1500, is a veritable tour de force of exquisite folds.
      > Rogier van der Weyden's "The Magdalen Reading," painted
      > some 60 years earlier, is still more daring, with a
      > 15th-century embroidered cloth peeping out from beneath her
      > flowing outer garment.
      > The 16th century brought two critical changes. As
      > portraiture grew in popularity, painters were challenged to
      > capture the extravagant cloths, intricate gold embroideries
      > and jewelry worn by sitters eager to display their wealth
      > and power. And in place of the almost self-conscious folds
      > of the previous century, light now played off crumpled
      > fabric in far more realistic ways. Anthony van Dyck, for
      > one, was famous for his depiction of the shiny texture of
      > satin.
      > Coincidentally, painters began using drapery to convey
      > movement. In El Greco's "Christ Driving the Traders From
      > the Temple," Jesus's long red robe swirls as he aims a blow
      > at a merchant, whose own yellow garment leaps away in fear.
      > Other artists, like Lorenzo Lotto and Damiano Mazza, showed
      > reams of fabric hanging in midair as if defying gravity. In
      > Gaudenzio Ferrari's "Christ Rising From the Tomb," for
      > instance, Jesus's standing figure is encircled by cloth
      > that floats like a halo.
      > The Baroque spirit of the 17th century was well suited to
      > the use of fabric as a vehicle of eroticism. The story
      > depicted might be biblical, but the message was often
      > carnal. In Johann Liss's "Judith in the Tent of
      > Holofernes," Holofernes's decapitated body lies bleeding,
      > but our eyes are drawn to Judith's sensual bare shoulders
      > and to the delight written on her face as she turns her
      > head. Jean-HonorÈ Fragonard was still more direct. His
      > "Young Girl on Her Bed, Making Her Dog dance" is
      > unashamedly suggestive: framed by yellow satin curtains and
      > bed covers, the girl's nightshirt is pulled up to reveal
      > naked thighs.
      > From the turn of the 18th century, neo-classicism brought a
      > new sobriety, with women now often portrayed in simple
      > white gowns, their hair in natural curls or knotted in the
      > spirit of Greek sculpture. Women no longer exposed their
      > breasts, yet the shape of their bodies was evident beneath
      > their gowns. By the 19th century, there was a similar
      > sobriety to men's clothing, as the dark suit made its first
      > appearance. A lasting trend was established: men wore
      > suits, women followed fashion.
      > "The Long Engagement" by the pre-Raphaelite painter Arthur
      > Hughes, which shows a young couple in a flower-bedecked
      > wood, pointed the way. While the man wears a dull brown
      > overcoat and stands in the shadow, the girl wears a blue
      > satin dress and a purple velvet cape, her pretty face and
      > blond hair the center of the painting. For Ms. Hollander,
      > the oil illustrates the "Victorian example of correct dress
      > for fraught encounters between the sexes."
      > With the 20th century, portrayal of fabric took a more
      > abstract form. Artists like Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani
      > were not interested in depicting clothes as they appeared
      > to the eye. Rather, fabric was presented for its shape,
      > line and color. It might frame a face or cover a body, but
      > its role was entirely expressive. Thus, Matisse's "Woman in
      > Blue," with half the canvas covered by a frilly blue dress,
      > is a composition of shapes and colors, not a portrait.
      > By blockbuster standards, this is a small show, but that is
      > its strength. Ms. Hollander could have elaborated her
      > thesis with two or three times as many works, but "Fabric
      > of Vision" more than suffices to train the eye to look at
      > paintings in a new way. Indeed, this can easily be put to
      > the test. After a visit to this show, a perusal of the
      > National Gallery's permanent collection can hardly help but
      > prompt the reaction: what a lot of fabric! ÝÝ
      > http://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/28/arts/design/28RIDI.html?ex=1029041928&ei=1&en=
      > 4b1bef43c90fe39c
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