Category: 1880-1889

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1888 – William Merritt Chase, Lady in Black

William Merritt Chase captures the style and youth of his art student, Mariette Benedict Cotton, in this portrait. She wears a black day dress made in the traditional bustle silhouette of the period with puffed sleeves that were rising in popularity at the time. Chase’s use of light adds depth to the piece, emphasizing folds in the fabric and the glittering of Cotton’s eyes and jewelry.

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1884 – Edgar Degas, The Singer in Green

Although dressed in theatrical costume, Degas’ Singer in Green contains details that were fashionable for women’s evening wear at the time, including an off-the-shoulder neckline, a downward-pointing bodice, a diagonal-striped pattern, and a choker-style necklace. What is less fashionable is its lack of applied florals and the bold color palette, which signals the fact that it is a costume.

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1881 – Édouard Manet, Spring (Jeanne Demarsy)

Spring (Jeanne Demarsy) by Édouard Manet is a breathtaking, youthful portrait of French actress Jeanne Demarsy, who exemplifies the title Spring in both her soft facial features and her Parisienne-style outfit. As one of the last paintings done by Manet before his death, Spring symbolizes the merging of female beauty and the beauty of nature, coming together as one to be admired in its totality.

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1884 – John Singer Sargent, Madame X (Virginie Gautreau)

In Sargent’s most famous portrait, Virginie Gautreau, a celebrated American beauty living in Paris, dresses in daring advance of fashion–the unadorned simplicity of the dress makes it appear modern even today. Her apparent lack of underwear and daringly dropped shoulder strap (later repainted by Sargent) in combination with her heavy makeup and seeming indifference to the viewer provoked scandal when the work was first exhibited in the 1884 Paris Salon.

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