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Strike a pose

September 17th, 2018

image of a woman in a white dress wearing a monocle on her right eye

Unknown. The Monocle Mode. The eyeglass, the wearers of which were once regarded as “superior persons”, has staged a successful return to social life without the stigma of superiority attached to its use, 1920s-1930s. Gelatin silver print. Anonymous Gift, 2008. © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario

It’s a busy time for fashion fans. The Fashion Weeks in Toronto and New York recently wrapped up. London Fashion Week is now underway and in just a few days, Milan Fashion Week kicks off.

To celebrate Fashion Month, we’ve gathered a selection of works in the AGO Collection featuring some rather chic fashions. From the luxurious and bejewelled to beach fashion, here are some stylish artworks for the sartorial-minded.

Augustus Edwin John, The Marchesa Casati, 1919. Oil on canvas, Overall: 96.5 x 68.6 cm. Purchase, 1934. © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario.

The Marchesa Casati

This painting depicts Marchesa Luisa Casati, an Italian heiress, artist’s muse and patron of the arts in early 20th-century Europe. The Marchesa lived an extravagant lifestyle and even wore live snakes as jewellery. Her portrait, a favourite among AGO visitors, was painted by Augustus Edwin John in 1919 after the artist met her at a party in Paris. Luisa Casati’s outrageous costumes and legendary masquerade parties inspired the work of many fashion designers, including designer Alexander McQueen’s 2007 spring/summer collection and Karl Lagerfeld’s 2010 cruise-wear collection. You’ll find this beautiful painting on Level 1 in the Margaret Eaton Gallery, Gallery 137.

Circle of Hans Holbein, the younger, Portrait of Henry VIII (1491-1547; reigned 1509-47), 16th century. Oil on oak panel, Overall: 64 x 51.8 cm. Anonymous Gift, 2000. © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario.

Portrait of Henry VIII

Henry VIII, King of England, was no slouch on the fashion front. He was a fan of luxurious fabrics and ornate jewellery. In this portrait, many of the fashionable King’s jewels were designed by artist Hans Holbein. The artist who created this painting included personal touches, such as the rose-like gem settings. Check out this dapper king on Level 1 in the Reuben Wells Leonard Memorial Gallery, Gallery 117.


The Beach Near Trouville

Eugène Louis Boudin, Beach Near Trouville, 1864. Oil on canvas, Overall: 67.5 x 104 cm. Anonymous gift, 1991. © 2018 Art Gallery of Ontario.

In 1864, Eugène Louis Boudin painted this gathering of fashion-forward people at the beach. In this painting – now on view in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery (Gallery 125) on Level 1 – women show off the latest fashions like corseted, narrow-shouldered dresses with hooped skirts. This style inspired Christian Dior, who in 1947 designed a collection influenced by memories from his childhood. Known as “The New Look,” the collection featured sharply cinched waistlines that exaggerate the hips and bust.

Celebrate Fashion Month this September with a visit to the AGO. All the works described above are now on view and included in General Admission. (And that’s just a handful of the works in our Collection featuring stylish fashions. The photograph of the striking monocle-wearing fashionista is currently in our vaults.)

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