The connection between art and fashion becomes stronger in my mind every day. I spend a good deal of my day researching different painters and art movements for work. Over the course of a week, I’m exposed to hundreds of images of art. And in my spare time, I see just as many images of fashion.
Earlier this month, I scored an amazing book, Three Hundred Years of American Art, at a second-hand store. I was enticed to buy it because I saw a major connection between Richard Florsheim (artist) and Antonio Castillo (couturier).
The book is so enthralling. I’ve continued to read it, and became acquainted with the works of Philip Guston (1912-1980).
Guston was part of the Postwar Abstract Expressionist movement in New York. During this phase, Guston experimented with color through non-representational paintings. His canvases have large, rhythmic strokes of color concentrated at the center. The colors then blend softly outward towards the edges. The purpose of these paintings were for Guston to represent “himself”, and he would use canvases measureing close to his own size.
Philip Guston. Zone, c. 1953. Oil on canvas, 46″ x 48″. Image courtesy of http://www.abstract-art.com
Self-expression is also central to fashion. The way we dress ourselves communicates our identity, even if it is in an abstract way. Designing clothing takes Guston’s idea of representing himself to an even larger scale – how do you make clothing that speaks for your clients?
I thought about this idea while window shopping on Net-a-porter yesterday. And then, there it was. Vivienne Westwood’s Union Jack dress. I couldn’t help but admire the similarity of composition to Guston’s Zone.
Vivienne Westwood Gold Label. Tuck Union Jack-print silk-chiffon dress. Image courtesy of http://www.fashionfuss.com
This, of course, led me down a rabbit hole. Vivienne Westwood is one of my favorite designers. Westwood began designing in the 1960s, and wanted to offer an alternative to the hippie look. She was particularly interested in rebellion, and pushed the limits. She used zippers, leather, provocative messages, and anything to provoke a reaction.
Rebellion is always central to Westwood’s designs, although her look is more romantic and feminine than her first few years of design.
Philip Guston. The Light, 1964. Oil on canvas, 69″ x 78″. Image courtesy of http://www.themodern.org
I was already a huge Westwood fan. But as I continued to see the parallels between her designs and Guston’s paintings, my enthusiasm could hardly be contained! I was nearly jumping with excitement after seeing each of the following:
Vivienne Westwood. Detail of Anglomania Apron Fish Dress. $713. Image courtesy of zappos.com
Philip Guston. To B. T. W., 1951. Oil on canvas. Image courtesy of http://poulwebb.blogspot.com
Vivienne Westwood Anglomania. Fond Printed Crepe Dress, $240. Image courtesy of lyst.com
Philip Guston. Oil on Canvas. Image courtesy of http://culturalonslaught.blogspot.com
Vivienne Westwood. Anglomania Melissa heels. Image courtesy of lyst.com
Philip Guston. White Painting II, 1951. Oil on canvas, 50″ x 50.9″. Image courtesy of artnet.com
Vivienne Westwood Gold Label. Fiona Tiered Printed Silkorganza Dress, $4,485. Images courtesy of lyst.com
Philip Guston. Image courtesy of http://shanefamealexander.blogspot.com
Vivienne Westwood. Pink jeweled socks with red and brown tassels. Men’s Fall/Winter 2010 collection. Image courtesy of http://stylefrizz.com
Philip Guston. Untitled, c. 1955. Image courtesy of http://arsvitaest.tumblr.com
Vivienne Westwood Gold Label. Union Jack Sequin Dress, $3,527. Image courtesy of lyst.com
Guston continued to paint abstractly until 1970. Then, he exhibited a new, cartoon-like figurative style. While I’m not as drawn to this style, I can appreciate that it emerged from Guston’s frustration and stagnation. Guston had painted in the same manner for nearly 20 years, and his “cartoons” were more about creative freedom than popular approval.
I know that Westwood would be inspired by this idea of freedom and rebelling from public approval. Her Jubilee t-shirt even looks like The Lesson, one of Guston’s cartoon paintings.
Philip Guston. The Lesson, 1975. Oil on canvas, 67 1/4″ x 71 1/2″. Image courtesy of http://www.phillipscollection.org
Vivenne Westwood. Union Jack Jubilee T-shirt, $360. Image courtesy of http://www.viviennewestwood.co.uk
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