A fashionably dressed woman promenades through one of Paris’ many parks. Protecting herself from the sun, she holds a small blue parasol and wears a bonnet. Touches of white — her gloves, sleeves, and flowing scarf — offset her blue and purple ensemble. Between her billowy sleeves and her gloves, the woman displays golden jewelry. She demurely reaches down with her left hand to hold up her voluminous dress. This mass of material contrasts sharply with her small head and single foot peaking out from below.
The woman’s immense dress would have been supported by an elaborate structure of crinolines or stiffened petticoats. Constantin Guys produced this drawing at the height of fashion for crinolines and full skirts. To suggest many layers of thin fabric, Guys built up layer upon layer of wash and repeating triangles drawn in ink. Guys’ attention to contemporary fashion and make-up made him Charles Baudelaire’s quintessential painter of modern life. But Baudelaire championed “Monsieur G” not merely for conveying appearances and artifice. For Baudelaire, Guys’ watercolors and drawings not only captured his subjects in the present moment, but also imbued them with a look of timelessness, elevating them to the status of historical figures.
Credit Line: Text courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program (CC BY 4.0).