Paintings offer a tantalising glimpse into fashion through the ages

25 January 2013

Paintings in All Dressed Up, a new exhibition at the Mercer Art Gallery in Harrogate, tell the fascinating story of fashion across the centuries and across the social classes.

The paintings, all selected from the Harrogate Fine Art Collection, offer an engaging insight into costumes and their wearers: from the fashionable garb of 16th century Knaresborough aristocrat Sir Francis Slingsby, who was beheaded for treason, to the working clothes of 1930’s Kentish hop pickers.

Find clues in the costumes to discover more about the wearer’s wealth, status and social aspirations through paintings which include:

Dame Laura Knight’s Rehearsal which portrays 1930’s dancers in their practice clothes. Knight was a prolific painter and draughtswomen whose favourite subjects were the circus and the theatre, all of which she drew or painted from life.

Henri Guillaume Schlesinger’s Girl and Lovebirds depicts a young girl wearing a fine silk dress typical of the 1870’s, of the kind only the wealthy middle-classes could afford. The painting also uses a time-honoured code to symbolise the emergence of female sexuality – from the cooing lovebirds to the rose bud pinned to the girl’s clothes.

John Flanagan’s portrait of Dolores portrays a woman with a short boyish haircut dressed in the Bohemian style of the 1920s, a term applied to people who lived unconventional and artistic lives.

Jane Sellars, curator, comments:

I think our visitors will enjoy this show. There are short commentaries with the pictures that present the works either from a social-historical view, or from an art historical angle. The focus is costume, but there are many more ways to look at these paintings. Seen together in All Dressed Up, they put on show the wealth, breadth and richness of the Harrogate collections with a new and diverting theme.

Learn more about historic costume at a special study day, All Dressed Up: A closer look at historic costume, with costume curators from the Victoria and Albert Museum, at the Mercer Art Gallery. The study day is on Monday 22 April 2013, 9.45 am until 4.00 pm, and costs £30 per person. To book please contact the gallery.

All Dressed Up: Costume, Fashion and Style in Paintings from the Harrogate Fine Art Collection is at the Mercer Art Gallery, Swan Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2SA, from 26 January until 7 July 2013.

Opening times: Tues – Sat 10.00 am to 5.00 pm, Sun 2.00 pm to 5.00 pm.

Closed Mondays except Bank Holiday Mondays.

The Gallery closes at 4.00 pm from November to March.

Admission Free.

To contact the Mercer Art Gallery:

Tel. 01423 556188




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