Painters of Fashion & Their Famous Subjects

September 26, 2017

Wikipedia_ Portrait of Marie Antloinette by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, 1778

Helga Aurisch’s class, “Painters of Fashion: Fashionable Painters” seeks to take us on a fascinating journey exploring the interaction between artists, painters, and fashion. Starting with the reign of Marie Antoinette, arguably the most fashion-obsessed queen to occupy the French throne, the class will examine how she and her favorite portraitist Elizabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, set the fashion world on its head in the years just before the French Revolution. We interviewed Aurisch to find out more.



WIH Reporter: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming class?

Aurisch: I hope it will be as entertaining and enlightening for the participants as it has been for me to assemble it. It will be a fascinating look at various moments in history, a snapshot look at collaborations between painters and fashion makers that speak volumes not only about art and fashion, but also about politics and the social developments that defined their historical periods.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the painters of fashion?

Aurisch: I think most people classify them unjustly as shallow. But these artists, who were superbly gifted painters, had the great ability to paint their subjects as they liked to be seen, a difficult feat. Many specialized in portraiture, but not all. They also produced works in other genres such as still lifes, landscapes, and history paintings as well.

WIH Reporter: There must be interesting stories about the fashion painters and their interactions with subjects!

Aurisch: Yes! They also often had to be sensitive listeners, entertainers and oh, so much more than just dexterous with a brush.

WIH Reporter: What will be the format of your class?

Aurisch: The class will be a richly illustrated lecture, with breaks for questions and answers. I would like to encourage the active participation of the class. Hopefully, the class will be enticed to look into the various topics more deeply on their own. I will be happy to supply reading lists for each class.

WIH Reporter: We like to ask what books are on your night table right now?

Aurisch: Right now, I’m reading Caroline Weber’s Queen of Fashion, What Marie Antoinette wore to the Revolution, Eleanor P. Delorme’s  Josephine, Napoleon’s Incomparable Empress, and Kimberly Chirsman-Campbell’s Fashion Victims, Dress at the Court of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. All of them are great sources, and very readable. Meanwhile, I’m off to Paris tomorrow, hoping to garner a few more delicious details for the course.

Professor Aurisch’s class begins on October 23rd at 10:00 a.m. For more information, or to register, click here.