When Fashion Meets Fine Art in articles from the artzine on artrepublic.com

This week saw star guests and fashion royalty descend on New York for the Costume Institute Gala, known as the Met Ball, fashion’s smartest party celebrating the annual opening of the Metropolitan Museum’s fashion exhibition. The congregation of high fashion at one of the world’s largest and finest art museums got us thinking about the relationship between fashion and fine art… 

This year the red carpet leading up to the Metropolitan Museum was studded with safety pins, spikes and leather as celebrity guests embraced the exhibition theme ‘Punk: Chaos to Couture’. The exhibition examines punk’s impact on high fashion from the movement’s birth in 1970 through to its continuing influence today. The punk movement was itself fuelled by artistic developments such as Dada and Postmodernism and had an equally powerful influence on fine art with artists such as Jamie Reid embracing the anti-establishment aesthetic. Punk is the perfect example of the long-established mutually stimulating relationship between art and fashion.

There are many great examples of fashion designers taking inspiration directly from visual artists. At New York fashion week last year Ronaldus Shamask, the 1987 Council of Fashion Designers of America menswear winner, reinterpreted Dutch De Stijl painter Piet Monderian’s minimalist grid-based art for the look that closed his runway show. Bill Gayton, creative director of the John Galliano label, has said illustrator Aubrey Beardsley’s drawings directly informed his collection. The romanticism of his sweeping dresses featured the same layered ruffles as Beardsley’s illustrations for the Aristophanes play ‘Lysistrata’. 

Fashion continues to find inspiration in fine art from Medieval Art to Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract Expressionism and Street Art. Fashion designer Jean-Charles de Castelbajac turned to the Pre-Raphaelites when recently designing his Fall/Winter 2013 collection. The French designer is known for reappropriating historic paintings into his clothing and for this collection he chose two classic paintings by one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, John Everett Millais. Here you can see his 1851 painting ‘The Bridesmaid’ directly printed onto the material of a flowing caftan-style gown and ‘Ophelia’ (1851-1852) on the pleated silk of sophisticated skirts and dresses.

Gabriele Colangelo, from the recently born-again Italian label Genny, said that Georgia O’Keefe’s orchids influenced his fall collection. You can certainly see a correlation between this deep purple dress and O’Keefe’s 1926 painting ‘Black Iris’. The influence Abstract Expressionist Franz Kline is clearly reflected in Albert Kriemler’s latest collection for the Swiss fashion house Akris, whilst American designer Daisuke Obana has been inspired by more contemporary art. He has been so inspired by Street Art and Banksy in particular, “I got inspired by him a lot”, that he emulated the exact ensemble worn by the bouquet bomber for his spring 2013 collection.  

The History of Art in Fashion

Here are our favourite examples of art from across the ages inspiring 21st century fashion design:

Mosaic from the Monreale Cathedral, c. 1170 and Dolce and Gabbana, 2013

Queen Elizabeth, c. 1592 and Alexander McQueen, 2013

17th-century Ruff in 'Two Sisters' by Cornelis de Vos, c.1615 and Valentino, F/W 2013

Katsushika Hokusai, c. 1830-32 and John Galliano for Christian Dior, 2007

Vase with 12 Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh, 1888 and Rodarte S/S 2013

Gustav Klimt, 1901 and L'Wren Scott, 2013

Man Ray, 1924 and Jean Charles de Castelbajac, 2011

Keith Haring, 1978 and Nicholas Kirkwood, 2011

Fashion Shoots

It’s not only the fashion designers taking inspiration from fine artists. Fashion magazines, photographers and editors have long turned to fine art for their editorial content. Artists such as Salvador Dali and Barbara Kruger have been invited to direct and even shoot fashion spreads and there are dozens of brilliant photo shoots replicating famous paintings by masters such as Vermeer, Gustav Klimt, and Roy Lichtenstein. 

Hans Memling’s ‘Virgin and Child’ (1475), The Face (1997). Photo by Michael Sanders

Youth-culture magazine ‘The Face’ paid homage to Han Memling’s Renaissance painting with a dash of irony as model Devon Aolki holds a disturbing plastic doll in place of baby Jesus. 

Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ (1907-1908), Harper’s Bazaar, February 2002. Photo by Patrick Demarchelier

Photographer Patrick Dermachelier recreated Klimt’s most famous painting, ‘The Kiss’, for an art-inspired editorial for ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ in 2002. Gustav Klimt’s portraits of society women and bohemians frequently featured fantastic clothing so his paintings transform into the fashion shoots with ease and beauty. 

John Singer Sargent ‘Madame X’ (1884), Vogue 1999, Nicole Kidman by Steven Meisel

The controversial and widely known John Singer Sargent portrait, 'Madame X', maintains its intrigue and mystery till this day. The once fallen strap to be later repainted in its rightful position continues to fascinate viewers and has been the subject of multiple recreations. In 1999, Steven Meisel recreated the portrait with Nicole Kidman wearing Oscar de la Renta for Vogue's June issue.

Here are more of our favourite fine art fashion shoots –


It seems as though fashion and fine art are true allies in creativity, colour and composition. Jonathan Jones in the Guardian recently wrote, “Today’s soft border between art and fashion would come as no surprise to great artists of the past. Artists have been fascinated by fashion for as long as people have cared about clothes.” Fashion is evidently equally fascinated by fine art.




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