Impressionism, Fashion & Modernity links art and fashion

PARIS—In other parts of the world it might seem a stretch to turn a museum exhibition about one of the greatest periods in painting into a lesson in the history of couture, but not in the city that happens to be the world capital of both.

Welcome to “Impressionism, Fashion Modernity,” on view through Jan. 20 at that marvellous former railway station, the Musée d’Orsay.

Showcasing 80 paintings by Impressionist masters (including Monet, Manet, Renoir) and some of their contemporaries from the early 1860s to the mid-1880s, this smart and sumptuous exhibition is an impressive co-venture between the d’Orsay and two North American partners, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, each of which will present somewhat different versions of the exhibit in 2013.

In Paris, the show has a special magic that is in danger of being lost on its way across the Atlantic. That’s thanks

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