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The Genius of Rembrandt and Dior

Two Events to Relish

In 1960, Marc Bohan became the artistic director for the House of Dior. His conservative style produced elegant wearable clothes, such as these from his 1961 spring collection featuring The Slim Look.

In 1960, Marc Bohan became the artistic director for the House of Dior. His conservative style produced elegant wearable clothes, such as these from his 1961 spring collection featuring The Slim Look.

Get ready for a fabulous double-feature starring Rembrandt and Christian Dior. Their enduring genius is on view in overlapping exhibits at the Denver Art Museum, starting with Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker, now through January 6, 2019, and Dior: From Paris to the World, November 18 through March 3, 2019.

Rembrandt

The DAM is the sole venue for Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker. The exhibit is co-curated by Dr. Timothy J. Standring, Gates Family Foundation curator at the museum, and Dr. Jaco Rutgers, leading scholar of Rembrandt prints. 

Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), the Dutch Baroque painter and printmaker who always went by his first name, is considered one of the greatest artists in history.

The exhibit features prints from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, which has one of the most significant collections of Rembrandt prints in the world. It also includes loans from the Louvre, Paris, the British Museum, London, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

The chronological presentation showcases more than 100 prints, drawings and paintings that spanned Rembrandt’s career from 1625-1665, and explores his use of dark colors and golden highlights that defined his style. It also looks closely at his innovative approach to printmaking that combines etching, drypoint and engraving on different kinds of paper.

Viewers may be surprised to learn that his etchings, not his paintings, were responsible for the international reputation he enjoyed during his lifetime and beyond. Because they could be reproduced, they were more widely known than his other works. He is considered to be one of the greatest etchers of all time.

Also a prolific master of self-portraits, he created nearly 100 images of himself that included paintings, etchings, and drawings. They became a visual biography of the artist over a span of 40 years, showing his face in scrupulous, uncompromising detail and realism from a young man to older age.

You could say he was the king of the selfie who often imbedded his image into other paintings. Though most famous artists painted self-portraits, none equaled the number that Rembrandt produced. And according to experts, no one really knows why. The reasons for his unblinking mirror images are still debated.

A 200-page catalog, Rembrandt: Painter as Printmaker, published by Yale University Press, is available at the Museum.

Christian Dior

Dior, with all his glamour and elegance, will dazzle and delight at the Denver Art Museum November 18 to March 3, 2019. Dior: From Paris to the World, marks 70 years of the House of Dior’s enduring legacy and its global influence.

A display of 150 haute couture dresses as well as accessories, photographs, original sketches, runway videos and other archival material will trace the history of the iconic fashion house and its founder, as well as the directors who succeeded him.

His career as a world-famous designer had a circuitous beginning. As a young man, Dior wanted to be an architect but his father insisted he study politics. Eventually, recognizing his son’s love of the arts, he bought him an art gallery, but after the collapse of the family business, the gallery closed and Dior was on his own. 

Living mostly in survival mode, he contracted tuberculosis and spent a year in a sanitarium. While there, he took up drawing and developed an interest in sketching fashions. Later with the help of a designer friend, he began selling his sketches.

His reputation grew, and with the generous backing of a wealthy textile manufacturer, he opened his own fashion house. 

When Dior presented his debut collection at his new House of Dior in 1947 in Paris, he changed the course of fashion. He shed the drab silhouette of the war years with a display of luxurious and feminine clothes that flew in the face of rationing and shortages. His designs were a sensation as Hollywood stars and New York socialites became his most ardent clients.                             

His New Look—a term coined by the then-editor of Harper’s Bazaar that became the signature of his first collection—transformed the shape of women’s clothes. His structured hourglass designs accentuated high busts and waspy waists, soft shoulders and rounded hips—and voluminous skirts made from swaths of luxury fabrics. He once said, “I wanted my dresses to be constructed like buildings, molded to the curves of the female form.”                                  

Despite his growing wealth and fame, he became increasingly superstitious. Every collection included a coat named the ‘Granville,’ after his birthplace in Normandy. At least one model had to carry lily of the valley, his favorite flower, and it’s said he never began a show without consulting his tarot card reader. 

In 1957, ten years after the launch of his fashion house, the world bid adieu to the man credited with bringing freshness and elegance back into fashion. At only 52, he died unexpectedly of unclear circumstances while on vacation in Italy. By then, he had established the House of Dior on five continents.

Light years from today’s holey jeans and see-through everything, Dior was a true fashion revolutionary whose legacy is alive and well. “This exhibition will encourage audiences to think differently about the boundaries of fashion as art,” says Christoph Heinrich, director of the DAM. 

IF YOU GO
Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, Denver, CO 80204, 720-865-5000
www.denverartmuseum.org 
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