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Edgar Degas, "Portrait of Zacharian," ca. 1885. Pastel on paper laid down on board, 15 5/8 x 15 5/8 in. (39.7 x 39.7 cm). Private CollectionImage courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO—Best known for his depictions of Parisian dancers and laundresses, Edgar Degas (French, 18341917) was enthralled with another aspect of modern life in the French capital: high-fashion hats and the women who created them. Degas’s fascination inspired a visually compelling and profoundly modern body of work that documents the lives of what one fashion writer of the day called “the aristocracy of the workwomen of Paris.” Despite the importance of millinery as a subject in Degas’s oeuvre, there has been little discussion of its place in Impressionist iconography, until now. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco bring new light to the subject with this presentation of Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade.

Edgar Degas, 'The Millinery Shop,' 1879–1886

Edgar Degas, "The Millinery Shop," 1879–1886. Oil on canvas, 39 3/8 x 43 5/8 in. (100 x 110.7 cm). The Art Institute of Chicago, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection, 1933.428. Bridgeman Images. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

This landmark exhibition features more than 40 Impressionist paintings and pastels, including key works by Degas, as well as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Édouard Manet, Mary Cassatt, and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Approximately 40 spectacular examples of period hats—including nine from the Fine Arts Museums’ collections—also will be displayed.

This exhibition highlights several facets of our extensive holdings, which comprises not only exemplary paintings and drawings of French Impressionism but also exquisite hats of the same time,” says Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums. “There have been numerous exhibitions on Degas, but this is the first to focus on his works inspired by the milliners of Paris and to present them alongside the works these artisans themselves were creating.”

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Edgar Degas, "The Milliners," ca. 1898. Oil on canvas, 76 x 82 cm (29 5/8 x 32 1/4 in.). Saint Louis Art Museum, Director's Discretionary Fund; and gift of Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur D. May, Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, Mr. and Mrs. Sydney M. Shoenberg Sr. and Mr. and Mrs. Sydney M. Shoenberg Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Irving Edison, and Harry Tenenbaum, bequest of Edward Mallinckrodt Sr., and gift of Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Levin, by exchange, 25:2007. Photograph by Jean Paul Torno Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Highlights include paintings from the Musée d’Orsay, the Art Institute of Chicago, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the St. Louis Museum of Art, which are displayed near hats from the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. These works present the social and historical context of the millinery trade, which captivated Degas and his peers.

Our installation not only provides new insights on paintings by familiar artists such as Degas, Renoir, and Cassatt but it is also a remarkable opportunity to explore the intricate layers of social, economic, and gendered meaning behind the production, wearing, and depictions of hats in 19th-century French art and culture,” says Melissa Buron, associate curator of European painting for the Fine Arts Museums. “One of the project’s main themes is the changing social roles of women as both creators and consumers of these fashionable accessories.”

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Edgar Degas, "The Milliners," 1882–before 1905. Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 × 29 1/2 in. J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, 2005.14. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The exhibition is the first to examine the height of the millinery trade in Paris, from around 1875 to 1914, as reflected in the art of the Impressionists and French milliners. From the start of the Third Republic until the outbreak of World War I, there were around 1,000 milliners working in what was then considered the fashion capital of the world. Degas and the Impressionists’ representations of millinery became a central theme within the broader avant-garde ambition to showcase the diversity of Parisian modern life.

We are excited to share the Museums’ important collection of French-made hats and bonnets from this imaginative period in millinery history,” says Laura L. Camerlengo, assistant curator of costume and textile arts at the Fine Arts Museums. “We trace the journey of these accessories from creation to wear, hoping to foster a fresh appreciation for the artistry of the milliners and their extraordinary creations, and to shed new light on their lives and the lives of their clients.”

Degas_The Conversation_Acquavella

Edgar Degas, "The Conversation," 1895. Pastel on paper, 25 5/8 x 19 3/4 in. (65 x 50 cm). Courtesy of Acquavella Galleries. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Saint Louis Art Museum. The presentation in San Francisco is overseen by Melissa Buron, associate curator of European paintings at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and Laura L. Camerlengo, assistant curator of costume and textile arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Degas, Impressionism and the Paris Millinery Trade will be on view at the Legion of Honor from June 24 through September 24, 2017.

Renoir_At the Milliners

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, "At the Milliner's," 1878. Oil on canvas, 13 x 9 3/4 in. (32.9 x 24.8 cm). Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Bequest of Annie Swan Coburn, 1934.31. Bridgeman Images. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Manet_At the Milliners_FAMSF

Édouard Manet, "At the Milliner's (La Modiste)," 1881. Oil on canvas, 85.1 x 73.7 cm (33 1/2 x 29 in.). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Mildred Anna Williams Collection, 1957.3. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Cassatt_Portrait of Madame J

Mary Cassatt, "Portrait of Madame J (Young Woman in Black)," 1883. Oil on canvas, 31 1/2 x 25 in. (80 x 63.5 cm). Collection of the Maryland State Archives: The Peabody Art Collection. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

James Tissot, 'The Shop Girl,' 1883–1885

James Tissot, "The Shop Girl," 1883–1885. Oil on canvas, 57 1/2 x 40 in. (146.1 x 101.6 cm). Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Gift from Corporations’ Subscription Fund, 1968. Bridgman Images. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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E. Motsch, designer, Man’s top hat, 1915–1930. Labels: “Special E. M”; “E. Motsch / 42 Avenue George V / 68.R.François 1er / Paris”; “D. P.” Silk pile with cotton foundation, wool hatband, silk grosgrain ribbon binding, leather headband, and silk lining, 22 5/8 in. (57.5 cm) circumference. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Bequest of Dana Pond, 1979.393Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Maison Virot, Woman's hat, ca. 1900 with alterations. Plaited straw over wire frame; silk velvet and maline; silk roses, leaves, and ferns, 39.4 x 38.1 cm (15 1/2 x 15 in.). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Jane Scribner, 49.10.25. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Womans Hat_FAMSF

Anonymous (French, late nineteenth century), Woman’s hat, ca. 1890. Silk faille, velvet, cord, jet beads, and an African starling, 10.2 cm (4 in.) crown height; 21 x 22.9 cm (8 1/4 x 9 in.) overall. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Mrs. Caroline Schuman, 53020.6. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Madame Pouyanne (French, active late nineteenth–early twentieth century), designer, Woman's bonnet, ca. 1885. Label: “Mme. Pouyanne / 4 Rue de la Paix / Paris.” Wool felt, silk velvet, silk embroidery in satin stitches, and bird of paradise, cock, and other feathers, 22 x 16 x 16 cm (8 5/8 x 6 1/4 x 6 1/4 in.). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Osgood Hooker, 51.29.6. Worn by donor's mother, Ella Goad Hooker. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Michniewicz-Tuvée (French, active ca. 1868–ca. 1905), designer, Woman’s hat, ca. 1892. Label: “25, Place Vendôme / Michniewicz-Tuvée / Paris.” Rabbit felt, ostrich feathers, silk satin ribbon, and faceted jet buckles, 4.4 cm (1 3/4 in.) crown height; 32.4 x 32.1 cm (12 3/4 x 12 5/8 in.) overall. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Mrs. Walter Haas, 56.18.6 Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade" at the Legion of Honor, June 24 - September 24, 2017. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade" at the Legion of Honor, June 24 - September 24, 2017. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade" at the Legion of Honor, June 24 - September 24, 2017. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade" at the Legion of Honor, June 24 - September 24, 2017. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade" at the Legion of Honor, June 24 - September 24, 2017. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade" at the Legion of Honor, June 24 - September 24, 2017. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.