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New! Flowers, fashion, and vintage flair. 🌼

Woman in wide dress, garland in hands, a 20x200 Vintage Edition
8"x10" ($40) | 11"x14" ($85) | 16"x20" ($275) | 20"x24" ($775)

During the turn of the 20th century, Dutch design, visual art, illustration, architecture and fashion nearly unanimously responded to the rapidly changing technological and societal changes in which it was situated. ​​Nieuwe Kunst, the Dutch iteration of the internationally-present Art Nouveau movement, was part and parcel of the prevailing progressive visual and ideological culture of the time. From Japan (Shiro-Uma) to Scandinavia (Jugendstil), from Italy (Stile Liberty) to the Austro-Hungarian Empire (Wiener Jugendstil), cultures the world over put their unique twist on what most modern design lovers now generally just recognize as Art Nouveau. 

No wonder, then, that our newest Vintage EditionWoman in wide dress, garland in hands, anonymous, c. 1910 - c. 1920 is a piece with so many seemingly disparate visual motifs. The garland of electric blooms and high-chroma ovular shapes encircling the girlish subject don’t only impart sinuous motion to the piece–they look to the modern eye like something directly out of Takashi Murakami’s mind, but filtered through the decorative lens of Gustav Klimt. The posture of the figure’s arms, hands, and shoulders, however, are pure classic French fashion illustration. 

Indeed, this type of image falls under the umbrella of the “fashion plate”—not the crayon-rubbing plastic toy of the 70s and 80s, but a typical categorical method of depicting and disseminating information about the hottest and newest outfits that were dans le style. These pieces were created using copper and steel engravings so that they could be easily reproduced and shown to wide-eyed, forward-looking buyers ready to adapt to the newest ways of dressing. In this case, ankle-baring dresses replaced floor-length styles, and soft, fluid, lithe silhouettes began to prevail. After all, the serpentine lines found in everything from pottery to art glass to plaster work in chic cafes, from jewelry to furniture to paintings–doesn’t matching it just make sense? When the world around you is suddenly made of meringue and motion, stiffness just doesn’t feel right. 

Woman in wide dress, garland in hands wasn’t, however, a typical fashion plate, and is perhaps not one at all. The piece is a watercolor illustration, not an engraving, and there is no dressmaker attribution despite the bold design and specificity of both the neckline pattern and the broad, bold cobalt stripe circling the tent-like hem. Some later iterations of fashion plates that were crafted as stencils and then hand-painted arose during the later days of the form, so it’s possible that this was one…but we just don’t know. 

By the look on the subject’s face, she doesn’t care either way. She is boldly carefree, despite the start of WWI. Her wide dress enables easy movement, and its low-cut empire bodice is far from the modest to-the-chin styles embraced by the Victorians. She’s got short hair, free-flowing, and she’s skipping energetically along what appears to be a short garden trellis, not hemmed in by a corset, not silenced by musty cultural traditions. In fact, her mouth is open wide and she’s heavily made-up. She’s assertive. She’s breezy. She’s the modern bon vivant, and while her creator may be anonymous, the multi-layered international aesthetic mashup she is born of is certainly not. It feels, over a hundred years later, as fresh as ever. 

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