Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lumières: Carte-blanche à Christian Lacroix, Musée Cognacq-Jay - Paris, Part two

To read my initial post on this exhibition, please click: here.

"What if beauty was something that you could hold in your hands? Not a beautiful object but the idea of it? What might that be? Would it be heavy or light?" These are some of the questions that I took with me as I walked away from the Musée Cognacq-Jay's sublime exhibition Lumières: Carte-blanche à Christian Lacroix. Wanting to dig beyond my initial, not-exactly transient joy after having swept through the many silk-shod rooms, I turned my thoughts questioningly towards the designer himself.

From the museum's Press kit:

Christian Lacroix

Visions of the Enlightenment

What is your perspective on the Age of Enlightenment and how has it influenced your work?

"My perspective on the Age of Enlightenment is simply that of someone who is passionate about that era...I can only gratefully advocate everything that the Enlightenment brought about in terms of social progress, political thinking, the fight against obscurantism, tolerance and a thirst for knowledge, as demonstrated by the encyclopaedists. All the more so given that, paradoxically, this seemingly unshakeable knowledge, these foundations that were thought to be the definitive basis of modern societies were suddenly undermined, disputed and denied in the early 21st century. If only for these reasons, it is interesting to make these connections between the 18th century and our own times... From 1880 to 1910, people were expected to live in accordance with good taste – that is, past tastes – as the middle class post-Napoleon III adopted the style of the pre-Revolution enlightened aristocracy. I must confess that, beyond my appreciation and respect for the Age of Enlightenment, I am not impervious to all the rococo froth it created and inspired in the second half of the 19th century and beyond, with the somewhat risqué 'marquise', 'shepherdess' style, which was basically bourgeois and borderline kitsch. Contemporary artists often look back upon the 18th century from this angle."

Elsewhere, Mr. Lacroix admitted that the period's most obvious influence on his work can be seen in his deep appreciation of costumes - both within his former haute couture designs (as I have mentioned previously, his famous "pouf" skirts of the 1980s were basically 18th century dresses chopped in half) as well as in his theatrical work. And indeed, costumes are used throughout the exhibition to punctuate each room's particular persona. This fascination with outer presentation goes hand in hand with the creation of the individual, one of the Age of Enlightenments overriding themes. 

I returned to this once dusty museum looking for the Romance of another time or maybe of another me but older now, I found that yes, my heart would still rise up like Fragonards's girl on "The Swing" but also that my mind was solidly rooted down in the importance of freedom that the Age of Enlightenment helped to promote.

Flipping this little bit of gold up in the air, I let it fall smilingly palm to palm as I was happy - at least in this instance, hopefully in others - to look at both sides of the same intricate coin. 

Musée Cognacq-Jay
8, rue Elzevir
75003 Paris

The exhibition is now closed and the museum will reopen on May 9th, 2015.

Open 10am - 6pm
Closed Mondays. 
Unfortunately, the museum is not at all accessible to those with reduced-mobility.
There is app for the exhibition en français. If you are interested, see here.

For more information about the museum in English: click here.


Emm said...

These are wonderful pictures, thank you.
I'd never quite realized it before, but your picture of the three grand gowns made me notice: Women wearing those, with whatever else they had to do to their bodies, pretty much had to hold their arms like dancers in second position. It must have been very tiring.

I Dream Of said...

Heather, I'm so delighted for your take on this exhibit. Had I had known, we would have definitely made a bee-line for the Marais, but it escaped my radar. C'est la vie. Love seeing it through your eyes and am extremely grateful to be able to imagine myself there... Thank you XOXO

Jennifer Connolly said...

A beautiful exhibition. I love the intricate detailing and crafstmanship.I must say, those gowns don't look very comfortable for as lovely as they are. Thank you for sharing what I wouldn't have been able to see!!

RebeccaNYC said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful photos! The clothing is amazing....I am always in awe that women actually dressed that way. I can personally attest to how uncomfortable pannier petticoats are to wear! How did they do it on a daily basis? Beautiful but so restrictive!

Karena Albert said...

Heather the statement from Mr. Lacroix and your own are so full of meaning and relevant to the changing of ideals in that era.
The portraits along with the gowns and men's suiting are stunning!

The Arts by Karena
Artist Brad Oliphant

robin said...

Thank you for more sumptuous treats for our eyes and brains! It looks like such a unique installation and, again, I love the juxtapositions of old and new. Thanks for letting us go with you (though I wish it had been in person...)!

Tracy Wood said...

Heather, how lucky you were to have seen this exhibition, and how lucky are we that you have shared it with us. I think that if I had been there, I would have been lost in its beauty and it would have been difficult to leave.
Merci, xxTracy

simpleimages2 said...

To think free and one’s own for the first time was probably one of the greatest time in history and leading to the time of independent thinkers questioning the rules of established religion and medieval hierarchy. Viewing the exhibits and think of what it represent once in time will lift our heart with joy and yes,"my heart would still rise up like Fragonards's girl on "The Swing” .” I will try to imagine what I didn’t see.

La Contessa said...

Well,You know who would LOVE TO GO HERE and just meander!
Did you get this in the same day you meet Eleanor?You did SO MUCH!!!

Heather Robinson said...

Wow, good point Emm! They must have had very strong arms! ;)

Heather Robinson said...

I have to admit that I only heard of it the night before I was going to go up and was so excited! The PR did a very low-key job. You in your former life could have gotten it the press it deserved...
But I think that you had a pretty great time in Paree nonetheless, non? ;)

Heather Robinson said...

The three huge gowns at the end were for theatrical designs and I admit are a bit mind-blowing to imagine to wear but I can absolutely 100% see myself wearing the blueish green and gold gown for everyday - it would hide everything!

Heather Robinson said...

Did you have to relearn your balance in wearing one? I think I only had to once for a show and it was a bit roller-coasterish at first. But as I wrote to Jennifer above, the simpler ones without the massive hulahoop petticoats?? Yes please!

Heather Robinson said...

The men rocked it to back in the day...a far cry from our baggy jean and baseball cap backwards crowd.

Heather Robinson said...

Ah Sister, I know that you would have spotted a ton of things that I missed!

Heather Robinson said...

Definitely Tracy. I was on a tight time schedule otherwise I would have done the same!

Heather Robinson said...

Edgar there is more information on the website that I linked to above - the one in French but then click for the Press kit in English on the left hand side. Always interesting whether you are a journalist or not!

Heather Robinson said...

I saw this amazing show, quickly ate my felafel then saw another one - all while taking photos (including ones I haven't even shown yet) and yes, all in three hours before meeting Ellie!!!

simpleimages2 said...

Hi Heather,
I'm not a journalist. Remember, I'm a retired physician.
Best regards,

Heather Robinson said...

Oh yes, I know, Edgar. But I know that you have a curious mind and Press Kits are a great source of information for anyone wanting to learn more, not only for journalists!

simpleimages2 said...

Thank you Heather. I followed your advice.
Yes there was so much to see. I viewed all the beautiful paintings,watched the videos in French including the works of Hokusai. One of our granddaughters takes French in high school and loves it.
I was a "journalist" once, for our high school paper.