Fashion & Satire: The Drawings of Orson Byron Lowell and Charles Dana Gibson
January 28, 2017 - May 7, 2017
Fashion and Satire: The Drawings of Orson Byron Lowell and Charles Dana Gibson pairs a collection of satirical illustrations with Gilded Age
fashion pieces and accessories. Focusing on the life of “high society” in New York City, the illustrations invite the viewer to understand
fashion as a vehicle for representing and interpreting societal ideals in the Gilded Age.
Orson Byron Lowell and Charles Dana Gibson were two of the most influential illustrators of the late 19th and early 20th century, working
from about 1890 to 1930. They created fashion-filled compositions that linked dress and witty social commentary. Their observations about
people in society and their foibles were artfully represented in popular publications like The Saturday Evening Post, Ladies Home Journal,
Vogue and LIFE.
The exhibition juxtaposes about 50 Lowell and Gibson illustrations with actual period costumes and accessories, displayed on mannequins
or in cases, set up in “vignettes” adjacent to the illustrations. This not only brings the illustrations, in effect, “to life” in three dimensions
for the visitor; it also allows the visitor to see the historic clothing as part of a broader context of Gilded Age society in New York (so closely
tied to that of Newport), as well as inherently beautiful artifacts in their own right.
Costume pieces featured in the exhibition range in opulence from a beaded silk chiffon flapper dress and a silk satin wedding dress to
both men’s and women’s wool one-piece bathing suits. Accessories such as a hand painted silk and wood fan, a fancy velvet and ostrich
feather picture hat and a number of decorative walking sticks are also on display.