Friday, October 7, 2011

Fine Arts Friday: A Painting for the Sartorialist

Afternoon in the Park by William Merritt Chase, 1879

(Click on the painting to see a larger version.)

American impressionist William Merritt Chase painted this portrait when he was 30 years old. Here we see a young lady in the park who may be watching an event, given her folding chair, or perhaps she is in an artificial setting contrived by the painter.

Whatever the circumstances, we see a quietly confident young woman meticulously and tastefully dressed. I don't know if her dress is high fashion for her time, but the principles of its assembly are timeless. It is hard to imagine that she wore such an outfit on the advisement of her mother; she wears her clothes as the possessor of her style.

The arms of the chair match the red in her hat, the flower on her bodice, her belt, and fan, but we can note that she had already perfectly matched these items herself in dressing and chosen a gold bracelet and necklace to offset the outfit's dominating warm pinks and red. We can also note that the white lace of the bodice and the cuffs beautifully frames the dark intensity of her hair, eyebrows, and her expression, which speaks of a relaxed but thinking woman.

Or, perhaps her outfit was assembled for her by the artist. Either way, we have sartorial elegance.

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