Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago is a must see for all ages

Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago is a must see for all ages
Claude Monet. Women in the Garden, 1866. Musée d’Orsay, Paris, RF 2773. Photo from the Art Institute of Chicago website.

"Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity" is a wonderful exhibit organized by the Art Institute of Chicago, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Musée d’Orsay, Paris. It is currently at the Art Institute of Chicago through September 29, 2013, the last stop on its world tour. My tween and I went to see it together last night. For a tween who loves fashion and a mom who loves the Impressionists, this exhibit was fabulous.

The exhibit explores the connection between fashion in Paris from the 1860s to 1880s and Impressionist painting. It includes life-size figure paintings by Monet, Renoir, and Tissot right next to the contemporary outfits that inspired them. Seeing the dresses and art work side by side is amazing, even more amazing than how incredibly tiny women were 150 years ago, and that's saying something. Paintings by Manet, Caillebotte, Cassatt and Seurat are also included. In fact, there are 3 dress (plus the monkey) next to Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Squee!

My tween's take: She said she thought it was fun and said, "I wasn't expecting such fanciness. Those dresses were awesome." She oohed and

This dress is worn by the model in Édouard Manet's The Parisienne. Photo from the Art Institute of Chicago website.

This dress is worn by the model in Édouard Manet's The Parisienne. Photo from the Art Institute of Chicago website.

ahhed over the dresses and also the accessories, including a particularly perfect lace parasol and some fabulous hats. Her largest gasp of excitement, though, came over a tiny pair of pink slippers.

My tween's favorite part of the exhibit as the section featuring works En Plein Air, complete with fun features like chirping birds and faux grass to make the viewer feel like he/she is also outside. She had a hard time picking her favorite dress. This black one was one was a hit with her. I loved the purple one below.

My tween said that, after a bit, she was a little bored. It's possible that my reading every word in the exhibit didn't help, although it does tell you how fascinating I found it. Also, she's 10. (Or 10.9 if you ask the girl eagerly anticipating her birthday.) That age doesn't come with unlimited museum interest.

There were some lovely places to sit and she seemed happy to do so while I worked my way around a room. It was a comfortable compromise, which is no accident.

"We wanted people to feel like they really are in homes in these spaces," said curator Gloria Groom told the Chicago Tribune, referencing the fact that the rooms are carpeted, a first at the Art Institute.

Summer dress worn by Madame Bartholomé in the painting In the Conservatory, French, 1880. Photo from the Art Institute of Chicago's website.

Summer dress worn by Madame Bartholomé in the painting In the Conservatory, French, 1880. Photo from the Art Institute of Chicago's website.

My tween said she would recommend the Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity exhibit to her friends, although she qualified that a few of her friends who don't like dresses or art may just find it to be just "interesting" and a few may not like it at all.  Not every tween wants to discuss how the train went out of fashion or debate pleats versus lace like we did.

Of course the exhibit empties into a shop. It's a bit cruel that there are some fabulous fascinators that just beg to be tried on but the large "Ask for Assistance" sign and the steely stare of employees make it clear that this is not Claire's and you will not be trying them on for fun. It's possible that I was more disappointed than my tween. Or that she was enthralled with a lace fan instead.

The shop also had some stunning umbrellas (I guess they're modern day parasols?) and there was one I just loved. In a role reversal, my tween was Bartholome-Conservatory_360the first to notice that said umbrella cost $165. Ouch.

She said, "That's an amazing umbrella, Mom, but that price is ridiculous" and she left the store. I applauded, filed that nugget away for the next time she wants something expensive and trotted after her to check out some Georgia O'Keefe paintings.

Where: The Art Institute of Chicago is located at 111 South Michigan Avenue (If you pass the lions, you've gone too far.)
When: The museum is open 10:30am - 5:00pm, with the exception of Thursdays when it remains open until 8 p.m.
How much: Tweens are free! There is no charge for admission to the Art Institute of Chicago for those under age 14. General admission for adults is $23. You can buy tickets here. From 5:00-8:00 on Thursdays, General Admission is free for Illinois residents. We took advantage of this but there was still a $15 charge for the exhibit for adults.

Get another take from a fellow ChicagoNow blogger whose French and sewing background are perfectly suited to this exhibit here.

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE: Museum of Science and Industry Chicago: A learning experience for me and my tween or this post by The New Abides for parents of younger children: Five tips for introducing kids to art

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