Art,  Museums

New York City — Fashionable Exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum

The hottest museum tickets in New York City during 2023 were for exhibitions focused on KARL LAGERFELD, VINCENT VAN GOGH, EDOUARD MANET and EDGAR DEGAS presented at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially, “the Met”). Even though those well-regarded shows have now closed, you can view highlights from “Karl Lagerfeld — A Line of Beauty,” “Van Gogh’s Cypresses” and “Manet / Degas” in this article, plus you will learn about all the current exhibits at the premier art museum in the USA.

With so many fashion houses managed by men, the Met is now featuring “Women Dressing Women” to set the record straight on contributions made by female designers.

In October 2023, when Sarah Burton departed Alexander McQueen — where she worked for 26 years, and served as the brand’s creative director since its founder committed suicide in 2010 — the fashion world asked “Where are the women in positions of power in our industry?”

Since the fashion conglomerate Kering announced that Ms. Burton was replaced by Sean McGirr (a white man), the top positions at Rochas, Tod’s and Moschino have been filled by three more white men, all Italians. It is perhaps even more astounding to recognize that “Women Dressing Women” marks the first time the Met has devoted a show solely to female fashion designers in the 85 years since the Costume Institute joined the museum.

This exhibition, on view through March 3, 2024, is serving as more than a celebration of talented female designers from the early 20th century to the present. “Women Dressing Women” represents both an awakening and a timely provocation about equality and power in a multi-trillion-dollar industry that caters primarily to women!

Yellow Wool Coat, 1968 (left) by Zandra Rhodes; Leopard-print ensembles, 1972 by Diane von Furstenberg and Barbara Hulanicki; Yellow & Brown-striped skirt suit, 1966 by Betsey Johnson
Schiaparelli’s green silk Evening Dress, 1937
“Parfleche” Dress, 2021 of black silk satin by Jamie Okuma, a self-taught fashion designer based on the La Jolla California Indian Reservation
Gospel Book with Journey of the Magi, 1510-30, Ethiopia

The exhibit “Africa and Byzantium” explores the profound artistic contributions from North and East Africa — Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia and other powerful kingdoms — on the Byzantine Empire (330 — 1453). While art history has long emphasized the glories of Byzantium, this show sheds new light (with art rarely or never seen before in public) on the staggering artistic achievements of medieval Africa. This special exhibition will close on March 3, 2024.

Painted Wood Chalice Case, mid-18th century, Egypt
Gospel Book, late 14th-century, Ethiopia {BELOW: Gold Bracelet, circa 400, Egypt}
St. George & the Virgin, circa 1500, Ethiopia

“British Vision 1700 — 1900”

Department of Drawings & Prints, Through March 5, 2024

The Orange Market, with the Rialto Bridge Beyond, Venice, 1867 by James Holland
Rouen, 1821 by Richard Parkes Bonington
Leith Hill from Broadmoor, Surrey, 1860 by Edmund George Warren
Figures on a Beach in Northern France, 1830 by Thomas Shotter Boys
St. Ives Bridge, Huntingdonshire, 1895 by William Fraser Garden

Previous Exhibitions

VERTIGO OF COLOR — Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism

Woman with a Shawl, Madame Matisse in a Kimono, 1905 by André Derain

The Met presented a special exhibit entitled “VERTIGO OF COLOR — Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism” from October 13 through January 21, 2024. Co-organized with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 65 works of art (watercolors, drawings and paintings) by Henri Matisse and André Derain revealed how these two great Fauvists manipulated colors in radical ways — where nature took on hues responding to the artists’ sensations, rather than reality — to create the first important modernist movement of the 20th century.

Still Life, circa 1905 by Henri Matisse
View of Collioure, 1907 by Matisse
Landscape at Collioure. Study for “The Joy of Life,” 1905 by Matisse
Still Life with Geranium, 1906 by Matisse
Portrait of Henri Matisse, 1905 by André Derain
The Port of Collioure, 1905 by Derain
Fishing Boats, Collioure, 1905 by Derain
Collioure, 1905 by Derain
Fishing Boats, Collioure, 1905 by Derain
The Faubourg of Collioure, 1905 by Derain
The Palace of Westminster, 1906-07 by Derain
Mountains at Collioure, 1905 by André Derain

“Matisse, Derain, and the Origins of Fauvism” Closed in NYC in January and Will Open at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on February 25, 2024

This exhibit dedicated to Fauvism was presented in the Lehman Wing, one of the most serene areas inside the Met. The Lehman Wing possesses two levels of gallery space, and we encourage you to stop in to unwind and to view some of the fine pieces of art that are regularly on display.

Masterpieces in the Lehman Wing

Princesse de Broglie, 1851-53 by Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres
The Creation of the World & the Expulsion from Paradise, 1445 by Giovanni di Paolo
A Goldsmith in His Shop, 1449 by Petrus Christus
Coronation of the Virgin, 1455 by Giovanni di Paolo
Steven & Channing enjoying the intimate alcoves inside the Lehman Wing, with Virgin and Child with a Donor Presented by Saint Jerome, 1450 (above left) by a Bavarian Master
Saint Anthony the Abbot in the Wilderness, 1435 by Osservanza Master
Portrait of a Woman, 1475 by a Netherlandish or French Painter
Christ Carrying the Cross, circa 1577 (left) & St. Jerome as Scholar, ca. 1610 (right) by El Greco
The Adoration of the Magi, circa 1340 by a Follower of Giotto
The Annunciation, 1480 by Hans Memling
Portrait of a Woman, 1632 by Rembrandt
A Pond near Nangis, 1829 by Paul-Désiré Trouillebert
Portrait of a Man, 1632 (left) & Portrait of Gerard de Lairesse, 1665-67 by Rembrandt
View of Saint-Valéry-sur-Somme, 1896 by Edgar Degas
Condesa de Altamira and Her Daughter, 1787-88 by Francisco de Goya
The Bouchardon Mill, Crozant, 1898 by Armand Guillaumin
Evening Calm, Concarneau, Opus 220, 1891 by Paul Signac
Tahitian Women Bathing, 1892 by Paul Gauguin
Before Dinner, 1924 by Pierre Bonnard
Boats on the Seine at Chatou, 1906 by Maurice de Vlaminck
Avenue du Bois, 1925 by Kees van Dongen
House Behind Trees, 1906 by Georges Braque
House on the Seine near Vernon, 1916 by Pierre Bonnard
Houses on the Achterzaan, 1871 by Claude Monet
Maria, 1907 by Kees van Dongen
Railroad Bridge over the Marne at Joinville, 1871-75 by Armand Guillaumin
The Bridge at Villenueve-la-Garenne, 1872 by Alfred Sisley
Olive Trees at Collioure, 1906 by Henri Matisse
Sea and Cliffs, 1885 by Auguste Renoir

The New British Galleries

Princess Elizabeth, 1606 by Robert Peake the Elder
The Music Lesson, 1765 {porcelain} by Joseph Willems
Glass Vases, circa 1880 — 1890 from London

Exhibitions Presented at the Met During 2023

The Balcony, 1868 by Édouard Manet

A blockbuster exhibit on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through January 7, 2024 was entitled “MANET / DEGAS,” a collaborative effort with the Musée d’Orsay. The Manet / Degas show highlighted two significant (and contrasting) contributors to the “new” style of painting explored in Paris between the 1860s and the 1880s. It was displayed at the Musée d’Orsay during the summer of 2023.

In a Café, 1875 by Degas
Boating, 1874 by Édouard Manet
Ëmile Zola, 1868 by Manet
Semiramis Building Babylon, 1861 by Degas
The Madonna of the Rabbit, after Titian, 1850 by Manet
The Dead Toreador, circa 1864 by Édouard Manet {National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.}
Berthe Morisot in Mourning, 1874 by Édouard Manet
Interior, 1868 by Degas {also entitled “The Rape”}
Olympia, 1863 by Manet
Young Woman with Ibis, 1857 by Degas
Plum Brandy, 1877 by Manet
The Dancing Class, 1870 by Degas
Visit to a Museum, 1879 by Degas
Therese de Gas, 1863 by Edgar Degas {Portrait of the artist’s sister, Musée d’Orsay}
The Millinery Shop, 1879 by Degas

“Lagerfeld’s fluid lines united his designs for Balmain, Patou, Chloé, Fendi, Chanel, and his eponymous label, Karl Lagerfeld, creating a diverse and prolific body of work unparalleled in the history of fashion,” according to the Met Museum. The 150 creations by the German-born designer assembled by the Met’s Costume Institute, dating from the 1950s through 2019, were on view until July 16, 2023.

This pleated dress of black silk tulle appliqued with polychrome goose feathers required 800+ hours of craftsmanship, CHANEL 2017-18
Dress of black & beige silk satin crepe de chine (right) overlaid with silk lace, CHANEL 1986

“Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty” Closed in New York City in July 2023

A Wheatfield, with Cypresses, 1889 by Vincent van Gogh
The Starry Night, 1889

Through August 27, 2023, the Met displayed a tightly-conceived thematic exhibit of “Van Gogh’s Cypresses.” Some 40 works of art, including “The Starry Night” (above) from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, illuminated Vincent van Gogh’s fascination with the distinctive evergreen trees that sparked his creativity during his two years in the South of France.

Garden with Weeping Willow, 1888
Trees in the Garden of the Asylum, 1889
Field with Poppies, 1889

“Van Gogh’s Cypresses” Was on View in New York City During the Summer of 2023

Landscape Under Turbulent Skies, 1889 by Vincent van Gogh

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is open from 10:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon, closed on Wednesdays, and we suggest you plan a visit in the early evening on a Friday or Saturday when the Met museum offers extended hours from 10:00 in the morning until 9:00 in the evening!

View of Midtown Manhattan & Central Park from the Roof Garden (open May-October, weather permitting) atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Enjoying the Permanent Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Harpsichord converted to a Piano,1754 {BELOW: South Asian sitars, 1940 — 1990}

While some of the possessions of the Met may also be commonly found in other Western museums — such as furniture, tapestries, and antique weapons / armor from around the world — the most wonderful quality of museums in the United States in general is the broad range of ceramics, jewelry, timepieces, glass, fashion, photographs, mathematical & musical instruments, and architectural elements on display. In other words, art museums in North America are often surprising (and never boring) because they do not limit their purpose to the exhibition of sculpture and painting.

Golden Harpsichord by the Italian instrument maker Michele Todini (1616 — 1690)
Box with Falcon Statuette, 332 — 30 B.C. Egypt

“The Michael C. Rockefeller Wing” (opened in 1982) housing fine art from Africa, Oceania and the Americas is unique; unfortunately, this section of the museum is closed for renovation through 2025. The good news is that a number of pieces from the Rockefeller Wing may be seen in a room adjacent to Egyptian art under the title “The African Origin of Civilization.”

Temple of Dendur, Egyptian Wing
The Temple of Dendur {carved from Aeolian sandstone} was completed by 10 B.C.

BELOW: 1st century B.C. Roman Wall Frescos

Greco-Roman Art
Etruscan Chariot {bronze, inlaid with ivory}, 6th century B.C.
Swan-Neck Glass Bottles, 19th century, Arabic
Reception Room, Damascus, 1707, Syria
Pear-shaped Bottles, 17th century, Iran
Ottoman Carpets
Fountain, House in Damascus
Reception Room, Damascus, 1707, Syria
The Triumph of Marius, 1729 by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo

European Paintings from 1300 — 1800

Salvator Mundi, circa 1505 by Albrecht Durer
The Dormition of the Virgin, 1510 by Hans Schaufelein
A Roman Landscape with Figures, circa 1630 by Goffredo Wals
Hugo van der Goes Painting the Portrait of Mary of Burgundy, 1872 by Wilhelm Koller

If you plan to visit the Met and you’re in the mood to see paintings, fortunately you can head to the top of the Great Hall staircase and enter the 45 galleries devoted to European Paintings. After a five-year renovation project, this suite of galleries dedicated primarily to German, French, British, Italian, Spanish and Netherlandish art has recently reopened, with a few surprises sprinkled into the mix, such as “The Beginning” (below) painted between 1946 and 1949 by Max Beckmann.

Max Beckmann
Japanese Wing

Dainichi, the Cosmic Buddha, 12th century {wood, lacquer, gold leaf} Japan
The Fortune-Teller, circa 1630 by Georges de la Tour
Hubert Robert’s six Italian landscape paintings commissioned for the family of King Louis XV
Joanna de Silva, 1792 by William Wood
New British Galleries
The Calmady Children, 1823 by Thomas Lawrence
Mural of Buddha of Medicine (left wall) & Bodhisattva {sandstone sculpture} ca. 550 China
Chinese Garden
Madonna and Child with Saints, 1454 by Giovanni di Paolo
The Triumph of Fame, 1449 by Giovanni Guidi
Paradise, 1598 by Carlo Saraceni
The Flight into Egypt, 1664 by Carlo Maratti
Saint Matthew and the Angel, circa 1550 by Giovanni Gerolamo Savoldo
The Crucifixion, circa 1315 (top) by Ugolino da Siena
Head of a Woman, 1903 by Pablo Picasso
Still Life on a Piano, 1911-12 by Pablo Picasso
Portrait of a Man, circa 1650 attributed to Diego Velazquez
The Holy Family with Saints Anne & Catherine of Alexandria, 1648 by Jusepe de Ribera
Don Andres de Andrade y la Cal, circa 1665-72 by Bartolome Esteban Murillo

BELOW: The Actor, 1904-05 by Pablo Picasso & The Vision of Saint John, 1608 by El Greco

With a collection of over 2,000,000 works of art, where to begin at the Met

The permanent collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art is curated by 17 departments, and the main building on Fifth Avenue in New York City is by area one of the largest art museums in the world.

The Harvesters, 1565 by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Some departments, housing art from classical antiquity (Greece and Rome) as well as the ancient Near East, for example, cannot compare with stronger collections found in Europe. We therefore recommend you begin with the Met’s impressive holdings of Netherlandish art inside the “European Paintings from 1300 — 1800” galleries.

The Holy Family with Saints Francis and Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist, ca. 1635 by Peter Paul Rubens
The Annunciation, circa 1445 by Petrus Christus
The Adoration of the Magi, 1475 by Hieronymus Bosch
Self-Portrait, 1660 by Rembrandt
Aeneas and the Sibyl in the Underworld, circa 1630 by Jan Brueghel the Younger

After seeing art from Western Europe, Japan, China and Egypt, we decided to view European paintings from the early part of the nineteenth-century (below), when many artists from Scandinavia and France would embark on sojourns to Italy and North Africa for inspiration. We also had a keen interest in seeing stained glass, seascapes, portraits and landscapes by some of the most talented artists from the United States, notably Tiffany, Homer, Twachtman, Sargent and Inness — so we added the American Wing of the museum to our agenda.

The Massacre of the Innocents, 1824 by Francois-Joseph Navez
Columns of the Temple of Neptune at Paestum, 1838 by Constantin Hansen
Sunset, Sorrento, 1834 by Thomas Fearnley
Bashi-Bazouk, 1868-69 by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Edge of a Wood, 1850 by Theodore Caruelle d’Aligny
The North Cape by Moonlight, 1848 by Peder Balke
The Basilica of Constantine (left) & The Colosseum and the Arch of Constantine, 1822-25 (right) by Charles Remond
The Arch of Constantine Seen from the Colosseum, 1818-38 by Lancelot Turpin de Crisse
Prayer in the Mosque, 1871 by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Hamlet in the Auvergne, 1830 by Theodore Rousseau

Planting the Seeds of Impressionism

In 1830, the 18-year-old Frenchman Theodore Rousseau ventured into the rugged terrain of the Auvergne region to draw and paint from a high perch in the hills. Shortly thereafter, Rousseau’s panoramic view (shown above) of a hamlet at the base of a steep cliff was celebrated in Paris by leaders of the ascendant Romantic movement. As a result, the French countryside would soon take its place as the equal of Italy’s in terms of artistic inspiration and innovation, and the en plein air sketching expeditions of Rousseau and Charles-Francois Daubigny (below) would profoundly change the course of landscape painting over the next 60 years in France, North America and even Italy where in the late 1850s a group of Tuscan painters known as the Macchiaioli broke with the antiquated conventions taught by the European academies in order to paint outdoors to capture natural light, shade and color.

Sunset Near Arbonne, 1860-65 by Theodore Rousseau
Fishing, 1862-63 by Édouard Manet

Édouard Manet & Claude Monet

While both Manet and Monet achieved initial success by submitting their paintings to the official Salon, their modernist tendencies and styles would eventually lead them down independent paths. In 1861, Manet submitted two paintings to the Salon; both were accepted and one — The Spanish Singer (on view at the Met) — won an honorable mention. Manet would not receive unequivocal recognition from the Salon for another 20 years. Luncheon on the Grass {Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe}, Manet’s 1863 submission to the Salon, was rejected and the scandal caused by the presentation of Olympia (below right) prompted Manet to flee to Spain.

In 1866, Claude Monet’s Woman in the Green Dress was accepted by the jury at the Salon and received positive reviews. In the following year, however, Monet’s submission was rejected and Monet proposed the idea of exhibiting independently — together with other painters who would one day be called the Impressionists — a proposition that would not be realized due to a lack of funds until 1874.

The Impressionists organized eight exhibitions between 1874 and 1886 but Manet never exhibited with them. Manet was one of the first nineteenth-century artists to paint modern life and his alla prima {at once} technique was adopted by the Impressionists because this style allowed them to paint quickly enough to capture on canvas the changing effects of light. In retrospect, Édouard Manet was the most pivotal figure in the transition from Realism to Impressionism.

The Bodmer Oak, Fontainebleau Forest, 1865 by Claude Monet
The Pardon in Brittany, 1886 by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret
The American Wing inside the Met is illuminated by a wall of windows facing Central Park
Grapevine Panels (1902-15) designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany
Neoclassical marble facade (1822-24) of the United States Branch Bank of Wall Street
Winslow Homer seascapes (1895-96): Maine Coast, Cannon Rock, and Northeaster (left to right)
Kynance, 1888 by John Brett
Arques-la-Bataille, 1885 by John Henry Twachtman
Spring Blossoms, Montclaire, New Jersey, 1891 by George Inness
Metalwork, glass and ornamentation by Tiffany Studios in the American Wing

The Busy “Great Hall” Inside the Met in New York City

The main entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, known as the Great Hall, opened to the public in December 1902. At that time, the Evening Post newspaper announced that New York City finally had a neoclassical palace for the display of art, “one of the finest in the world, and the only public building in recent years which approaches in dignity and grandeur the museums of the old world.”

During this visit to the Met Museum, we explored some of the artistic movements which enabled France to become the creative center of Europe during the 19th century, displacing Italy, the Netherlands and Spain. Guardians of Neoclassicism such as Ingres in France and Navez in Belgium and leaders of Orientalism like Gérôme would gradually see their traditional movements wane in influence as proponents of Naturalism and Romanticism (Dagnan-Bouveret and Rousseau, respectively) gained recognition.

Of course, French Impressionism would surpass all of these 19th-century artistic trends in popularity and longevity. The Metropolitan Museum of Art possesses the finest holdings of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painting in New York, so please take a look at our article entitled “New York City — 3 Incredible Art Museums” to enjoy the depth of the Met’s collection of art from the 1860s through the beginning of the 20th century.

The Virgin Adoring the Host, 1852 by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

Autumn view of Fifth Avenue from the Met’s Roof Garden

Remember, the Met’s Roof Garden will be open (weather permitting) from May through the end of October. The Met Museum’s popular Holiday Tree and creche, shown below, are on view every Christmas season.

We sincerely look forward to seeing you in the future.

Christmas Tree & eighteenth-century Neapolitan Baroque Creche in front of the choir screen from Spain’s Cathedral of Valladolid

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