Monday, September 5, 2016

Before Labor Day, of course - Women in White - Marie Pasquiou-Quivoron Bracquemond 1840-1916

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916). Afternoon Tea, 1880

Born in Brittany, Marie Bracquemond began painting, when her family moved to Paris. Her earlier work shows the classical influence of Ingres, but by the 1870s, she was an active proponent of impressionism.

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916). Self Portrait 1870

Unlike many other female impressionist artists, Bracquemond did not enjoy the opportunities of privilege. She was largely self-taught. She became acquainted with members of the Impressionist circle, including Degas, Renoir, & Monet, after her designs for porcelain attracted Degas’ attention. Bracquemond exhibited in 3 of the Impressionist exhibitions.

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916). Artist's sister Louise in the Garden 

Although she exhibited during the 1870s & 1880s, the jealousy of her overbearing artist-husband, Felix Bracquemond, caused her to stop painting. Many of the best paintings by this reclusive artist were painted in her own backyard. Felix Bracquemond's disapproval of Impressionism & his discouragement of his wife’s endeavors led her to end her artistic career by 1890.

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916). Pierre & Aunt Louise in the Garden (The Artist's Son and Sister in the Garden at Sèvres) 1890

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916). On the Terrace at Sevres

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916). The Woman in White, c.1880

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916). Women in Boat

Marie Bracquemond (1840-1916).  Self Portrait Painting

The American dictum that women shouldn't wear white clothing before Memorial Day & after Labor Day has been around at least since the Civil War. The wives of the super-rich dominated high society after the Civil War. As more & more people became financially successful, though, it was difficult to tell the difference between "old money" in elite families & those who only had "new money." By the 1880s, in order to tell who was "acceptable" & who wasn’t, some elite women felt it necessary to create fashion "rules," that everyone "in the know" knew to follow. Not wearing white outside the summer months was one of these rules. In the non-air-conditioned early 20C, the summer "season" was defined by Memorial Day & Labor Day, when those-who-could flocked from town house to seaside "cottage" or mountain "cabin" to escape the oppressive summer heat. City clothes were left behind in exchange for lighter, whiter, summer costumes. Come fall, as well-to-do families returned to the city, more formal, darker city clothes were donned once more. And many in the large cities heated their environs with coal. The soot from the coal spread through the heated indoor spaces & coal dust quickly would stain light garbs. So folks changed to a darker wardrobe around Labor Day. This coincided with the growth of fashion magazines available to all levels of society. The magazines reflected the no white after Labor Day rule in the glossy, seductive pages of Harper's Bazaar & Vogue, which set the fashion tone for the country. This practice progressed from tradition, into rule, & finally into an identifiable cultural faux pas for decades into the 20C.