Saturday, August 21, 2010

Original Illustration Portfolios in MCAD Library Special Collections

This French fashion plate from 1913 was inspired by Japanese Ukiyo-e color woodblock prints
The many treasures in the MCAD Library's Special Collections include rare original illustration portfolios.  Unique among these is a set of hand-colored French fashion plates from the Gazette du Bon Ton.  Published from 1912-1925, the Gazette chronicled contemporary developments in fashion, lifestyle, and beauty, while advancing fashion illustration to a new level of refinement and sophistication. The most distinctive feature of the publication was its illustrations. Each issue of the Gazette contained ten unbound, high-quality pochoir prints by notable artists and illustrators such as Georges Lepape, Pierre Brissaud, Georges Barbier, and Bernard Boutet de Monvel.

In each issue of the Gazette, seven of ten prints depicted the latest haute couture designs from Parisian fashion houses such as Doeuillet, Doucet, Paquin, Redfern, and Worth. Three additional prints in each issue presented wholly fanciful designs invented by the illustrators, in which they both interpreted and commented on the latest styles and the lives of those who wore them. Through these prints, the Gazette's readers were offered glimpses of upper class life, manners, social environments, and leisure pursuits. As such, the Gazette du Bon Ton illustrations provide a unique visual record of fashion and high society in early 20th century France, from the last years of the Belle Epoque to the dawn of the Art Deco era.

The original prints are available for study by request in the MCAD Library.  One hundred of these beautiful prints have also been scanned and cataloged for inclusion in ARTstor, where they are available for research and study, as well as inspiration and enjoyment, by users across the world.

Allan Kohl
Visual Resources Librarian
MCAD Library

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