For more than fifteen years, the Belgian artist has been producing a completely original body of work that is easy to explain but difficult to categorize: exquisite re-creations of life-size historical costumes made entirely from...paper. Based on the rich depictions in early European paintings, iconic costumes in museum collections, photographs, sketches and even literary descriptions, de Borchgrave achieves the look of textiles by skillfully crumpling, pleating, braiding, feathering and painting paper. A painter by training, she now collaborates with costume historians and young fashion designers to explore the minds of the artists who created - or depicted - historical gowns, as well as the psyche of the women who wore them. "Although my inspiration springs from the period dresses in the great museum collections, this is just a wink at history," notes the artist who applies an encyclopedic knowledge of textile traditions to interpreting costume history with trompe l'oeil creations which both explore her imaginary world and create their own illusions. "My work is a confluence of influences—paper, painting, sculptor, textiles, costume, illusion and trompe l’oeil."
A new exhibition of her work opens February 5 - June 5, 2011 at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, presenting 60 trompe l'oeil pieces that span many highlights from the history of fashion including the elaborate velvets, needlework lace, ropes of pearls and intricate coiffures of the Renaissance period - in particular, costumes worn by the Medici family & Elizabeth I - gowns worn by Madame de Pompadour, Empress Eugénie and Marie-Antoinette, and designs of grand couturiers such as Fredrick Worth, Paul Poiret, Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. Special attention will also be paid to the creations and studio of Mariano Fortuny (he of the inspired Grecian pleating) presenting the eccentric early 20th-century artist in an immersive environment under a feather-light tent.
"Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave" also features nine dresses entirely devoid of color in order to showcase their craftsmanship, as well as a re-creation of the artist's studio to provide insight into her creative process.
"I am proud to say that this exhibition, so appropriately presented in the galleries of our Legion of Honor museum, is the first to offer an overview of the artist’s most important bodies of work," notes Fine Arts Museums director John E. Buchanan, Jr., "from the white dresses and Papiers à la Mode to the Fortuny and Medici collections and her newest creations." Her latest body of work was inspired by six paintings from the museum's European painting collection de Borchgrave selected during a recent visit to the Legion of Honor: Massimo Stanzione's "Woman in Neapolitan Costume" (ca. 1635), "The Bath" (Jean-Léon Gérôme, ca. 1880–1885), "The Russian Bride’s Attire" (Konstantin Makovsky, 1889), "Anna Caffarelli Minuttiba" (Jacob-Ferdinand Voet, ca. 1675), "Marie Claire de Cory and Child" (Anthony van Dyck) & "The Foursome" (Jean-Antoine Watteau, ca. 1714).
"Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave" will be on display at the Legion of Honor from February 5 – Sunday, June 5, 2011. More info at LegionOfHonor.org.
- Lesley Scott
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