Clothes encounter at Art Institute

Forget the hazy, rainbow-hued haystacks, the blurred and bustling street scenes, the chic cafes and dance halls, the slightly seedy backstages and entirely sleazy brothels. The Art Institute’s summer blockbuster, a sophisticated and exquisite display of impressionist masterpieces, does not contain all we’ve come to expect of the endlessly popular style that originated in Paris in the second half of the 19th century and has since found its unfortunate way onto countless coffee mugs, dorm posters and old-lady umbrellas.

Never mind the overly straightforward, somewhat dull title. “Impressionism, Fashion Modernity” is a thrillingly focused look at one of the primary subjects that captivated Edouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Claude Monet and the rest of their vanguard cohort. And plenty of their more traditional colleagues as well, from academic painters like James Tissot and Alfred Stevens to the anonymous illustrators of fashion plates.

That subject was fashion, which is to say

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