200 Years of the Dandy

by Eyal de Leeuw | 15.08.13

The Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design is closing its spring show “Artist/Rebel/Dandy: Men of Fashion” in 2 days, and although The Garconniere planned to see it, the summer almost ended while he was daydreaming in Tel Aviv beach.

Les Manteaux, published in Gazette du Bon Ton (vol. 12), 1913. Bernard Boutet de Monvel, illustrator.

The show features more than 200 objects—including innovative garments, bespoke clothing, works on paper, and paintings—drawn from the Museum’s collections and loans from individuals and national and international institutions. Through careful analysis of the figure of the dandy, from the elegant George “Beau” Brummell (1778-1840) to contemporary style leaders such as Thom Browne, Rick Owens, Ouigi Theodore, and Waris Ahluwalia ‘ the show focuses on the enduring bond between identity, creativity,and self-presentation.

Andy Warhol, 1979. Yousuf Karsh, photographer. Gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh. © Estate of Yousuf Karsh. RISD Museum, Providence.

“The exhibition offer a sumptuous view of the power of clothing and fine craftsmanship. It comes at a time of renewed appreciation for the nuances and attention to detail of traditional tailoring but also innovation and boldness in menswear design. The dandy, a historical figure, is central to this development,” says RISD Museum Director John W. Smith.

The Hon. Stephen Tennant, 1927. Cecil Beaton, photographer. Works of Art Fund. © Cecil Beaton. RISD Museum, Providence.

Artist/Rebel/Dandy mingles personalities and time periods with original materials to present the dandy in his full spectrum: “Beau Brummell” illustrates the style of this forbearer of “man at his best”; “Sketches and Definitions” introduces the often contradictory definitions and images of the clothes-wearing man; “Crafting the Dandy” addresses the workmanship and detail that makes up an aggressively individual style of male fashion; and “Relics” brings together garments and accessories that epitomize certain iconic dandies.

Detail of group of shirts worn by Francis J. Carolan, ca. 1900. T. Hodgkinson, shirtmaker, London. Monogrammed cotton plain weave, cotton novelty weave, and silk novelty weave. Anonymous gift. RISD Museum, Providence.

Connecting the actual garments of the creative men who wore them with portrayals of the dandy throughout history offers the viewer fresh insights into the power of fashion and textiles as a male pursuit,” say curators Irvin and Brewer.

Mirror of Fashion, 1823. Richard Dighton, printmaker, William Sams, publisher. Hand-colored etchings on wooden spool, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon collectio


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