Madame Grès

Last year’s exhibition of 80 key pieces by the couturier Madame Gres ( Germaine Emilie Krebs ) was a revelation. Curated by Olivier Saillard, it was integrated into the museum dedicated to the sculptures and studio of Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929).

I had been aware that Madame Gres had originally trained as a sculptor which meant that her work both revealed and concealed the body. This exhibition demonstrated how her vision owed so much to a sculptor’s understanding of the body, three- dimensions and the intrinsic power and possibilities of the materials.

The combination of these two great artists allowed each to shed light on the work and vision of the other. I found particularly revealing that the pieces of Madame Gres, which by their very nature and material were lighter and less monumental, nevertheless more than held their own against the work of Bourdelle.

Contemporary but also timeless, Madame Gres’ dresses consistently expounded her vision that “Perfection is one of the goals I’m seeking. For a dress to survive from one era to the next, it must be marked with extreme purity”. Simple and pure, these dresses show how the art of folding fabric over the body can be the very epitome of couture whilst remaining minimalist and devoid of any ostentation. This was a totally inspiring exhibition.

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