dressed down , the trend in the 21st century

Discussion in 'The Observation Bar' started by MrBern, Oct 27, 2005.

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  1. MrBern

    MrBern I'll Lock Up

    For years I've noticed that people have been dressing down in formal photographs.
    Now it seems that this goes even in having a portrait painted:


    October 27, 2005
    Formal Portraits Dress Down

    AMONG the works in the online portfolio of a New York-based portrait artist named Gerald Slater is a commissioned oil painting, 22 by 28 inches in dimension, titled "Eric at the Window." A shaggy-haired boy of about 5 or 6, Eric is shown wearing a plaid shirt and denim overalls. His head tilted, he looks skeptically at the viewer while his tiny hands grab at the window frame, as if to suggest that Eric has had quite enough of bedtime and root vegetables and is preparing to relocate.

    A 13-year-old boy depicted in one of Marina Goldberg's recent oil portraits appears more at ease with his domestic arrangement. Slouched in a black leather chair with a towel draped behind him, he seems to have wrested himself out of a long shower in time to watch "South Park." His presentation, like Eric's, had none of the eternizing formality of traditional painted portraits. Instead of a brass-buttoned blazer, say, the boy is wearing jeans, his right hand is tucked into a pocket, and a short-sleeve button-down shirt is open to reveal a white T-shirt bearing the Champion sporting goods insignia. He could not be confused with a child of the 19th century; he would probably not be confused with a boy of 1992.

    Americans' interest in commissioned portraiture - in oil, charcoal and pastel - has marched on unabated since the 1980's, when a new culture of wealth and traditionalism and a renewed interest in figurative painting brought it back into vogue. But a new style of family portraiture has emerged; not, it seems, in reaction against the grilled-cheese-in-hand temporality of pictures taken with cellphones, but in mirrored accord with it.

    A survey of the genre yields a great number of images of young children and teenagers surrounded by the paraphernalia of their extracurricular lives - soccer balls, bass guitars, fishing rods - and outfitted in T-shirts, Converse basketball shoes, Ugg boots, little sneakers with Velcro closures, Polo logos and all variants of the hiking shoe.

    If commissioned portraiture in the 18th and 19th centuries and much of the 20th was intended to idealize children, the current style seems to idealize the parents who raise them, romanticizing in particular the modern impulse to free children from any hindrances to their self-expression.

    "We are so anxious now to see our children as individuals, to listen to them, to really hear what they have to say, and I think that's all playing out here," said Wende Caporale, a children's portrait artist in North Salem, N.Y., who is considered a leader in the field.

    The casual style has its roots partly in the changing economics of an art form that has been significantly democratized. In the late 1970's and 1980's a handful of agencies sprang up in the North and the Southeast, with the goal of matching portrait artists with prospective clients. A mother in Wichita who wished to have her daughter's likeness rendered was no longer dependent on the one or two portraitists in her immediate vicinity. She could contact a brokerage house that might send an artist from Dallas or Atlanta best suited to her tastes and budget. A broader price structure eventually emerged (prices have typically ranged from $4,500 to $50,000, but it is now possible to find portraits for $1,500 to $2,000), allowing portraiture to extend its reach beyond the precincts of the ancestrally wealthy, to teachers and insurance people, to occupants of exurban McMansions and, in recent years, to those of comparatively more modest means.

    "The biggest change in the past 10 years has been the increase in the number of middle-income people wanting portraits," said Jean Daniel, president of Portraits South, a brokerage in Raleigh, N.C.

    "I've had couples who don't have dining room furniture but would have a portrait done of their 4-year-old," said Gordon Wetmore, chairman of the Portrait Society of America.

    The fashion for lax dress codes and comfortable settings has also taken hold among the well-to-do. For the past two years Ms. Caporale has been working on the portraits of Kathryn and Elsie Widing, the teenage daughters of Eric P. Widing, the head of the American paintings department at Christie's. On a recent day off, Kathryn, 15, traveled for one of her final sittings from a boarding school in New Jersey to Ms. Caporale's carriage house in North Salem, the home she shares with her husband, Daniel Green, who is among the country's most prominent portrait artists.

    Like most portraitists, Ms. Caporale works from life and from photographs. Kathryn's portrait, near completion, depicts her by a stream in her parents' former backyard, wearing jeans, a hot pink sweater, a digital watch and a long striped wool scarf. Her family's golden retriever, Jester, is at her side. The composition and costuming in her sister's portrait is almost precisely the same.

    "One of the things I was trying to replicate was the naturalness and ease of the girls," Mr. Widing explained. "We wanted to capture them really as they are, and painting captures something far more powerful than any photograph can aspire to."

    The depiction of children in ordinary circumstances has some precedent in American portrait painting. While dress was typically formal, outdoor settings were popular until the Civil War. Mary Cassatt painted children nude or in nightclothes. In the early 1950's Fairfield Porter painted a portrait of his son playing the piano in jeans and high-top sneakers.

    To a great extent, though, the classic children's portraits of John Singer Sargent and other turn-of-the-century artists were meant to denote the status of the families who commissioned them. Today's portraits, with their meticulous attention to branding and everyday detail, seem intended to convey something else, a will toward commonality.

    In thinking about these new portraits, Barbara Gallati, who curated the show "Great Expectations: John Singer Sargent Painting Children" at the Brooklyn Museum last year, is reminded of a portrait presented in 2000 to the Queen Mother that showed the young princes in unceremonious poses and clothes.

    "There's some embarrassment in modern society of having too much money, and if you present yourself as having money this way, you open yourself up to a certain kind of criticism," she said.

    What there is little embarrassment about in modern society is heaping attention on children. One common feature of contemporary family portraiture, Angela Mack, chief curator of the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, S.C., points out, is the general absence of adults. Children generally consume the frame.

    Perhaps it is not surprising at a time when two television series are devoted to the subject of infertility that a portrait may also be a testament to a child hard won.

    Not long ago Daniel Arredondo, an artist and dentist in San Antonio, was asked to paint a portrait of a 6-month-old. Dr. Arredondo, who once painted a portrait of Henry G. Cisneros, the former secretary of housing and urban development, and his grandson, balked because babies cannot, of course, sit still. But the mother insisted, he said. She worked as a medical technician, taking sonogram pictures. She had been told she could never have children. This, as he put it, was her miracle baby.
    Copyrited by the NYT
    go to link for images
  2. Great. I want to have a picture of my child dressed like a slob hanging on my wall. Sure I would shell out $15,000 for that. :rolleyes:
    This is ridiculous! I can say to each his own but this just repesents a lowering of standards another rung on the ladder. If I want to see children dressed like Stringbean from the Grand Ole Opry then I can see that everyday at the local high school. To have portraits commissioned to picture them as such is silly. It is his money though. As long as I don't have to pay for it then that is fine. I have to look at them everyday though. Can he pay me for my pain and suffering? ;) :p

    regards to all,

  3. Feraud

    Feraud Bartender

    Hardlucksville, NY
    Horrible! I would not pay 10 bucks for a painted picture of myself in jeans.
    What a waste of your hard earned money to throw it away on something like that.
  4. Vanessa

    Vanessa One Too Many

    And that portrait of the girl in her oh-so-fashionable-nowadays "Uggs".

    What else can I say but. . .ugg! She'll look back in 20 or 30 years at that painting and wonder what the heck she was thinking. There's a reason people are formally dressed for portraits - it makes them look timeless.
  5. Even more disturbing is this quote:
    ""There's some embarrassment in modern society of having too much money, and if you present yourself as having money this way, you open yourself up to a certain kind of criticism," she said."

    Great. You dress well and people make fun of you?! You don't have to be rich to dress well. You just have to have common sense and style. :rage: People these days do not even understand that it was an insult, and still is in some cultures, to show up at someone's home dressed like a hobo if they invite you over. Why not just simply not run the risk by dressing well all of the time?
    I understand the supposition that people make when you come in dressed to the nines but so what. My favorite reaction is when I tell them that I only spent $10 for the suit. :p I love that suit. ;)

    Regards to all,

  6. MrBern

    MrBern I'll Lock Up

    I'm glad to you all appreciate the post.
    What gets me is...I have lots of pix as a little kid where my mom had already trained me to behave in my suit. There were days whre I yearned to be more casual, but even at grade school, we wore a tie with our uniforms.
    Years later after dress codes were relaxed, the teachers asked for the codes to be re-introduced cuz the kids just didnt no how to dress themselves. So in my old highschool where we had no dress code to speak of, the current students have to learn the code amist these sloppy times.

    Just think back to the image of the very young John-john Kennedy saluting his father's casket procession. A powerful image of a child.
  7. Ah, the good old days when children were not necessarily viewed as childen but little adults to be taught morals, values and ethics. I suppose Pandora's box of permissiveness has been opened and we can only hope parents will have more backbone.

    Regards to all,

  8. C'mon now James, is this supposed to be sarky? That Victorian idea of children as little adults is what got 10 year olds in workhouses. It's also the idea behind Calvin Klein's continuous ad campaign that they're sex machines. All I can say about that portait nonsense. P.U.

    Cheers and kind regards,

    Senator Jack
  9. So how does that compare to what I wrote? Workhouses do not exist anymore. On top of that the children were helping their family make a living at a tough time.
    The problem now is that parents are allowing their grown children to reamin children in mind and body. They live at home until they are 40 and never take responsibility for their actions. That is a real "Portrait of Nonsense PU."
    As for Calvin Klein, how does his campaign square with the morals, ethics and values mentioned previously? He is a modern incarnation is he not? Nothing Victorian there.
    I would rather view children as little adults more than I what I see as overindulged, lazy miscreants who have no style, respect or responsiblity for their actions. This is the attitude that lead to Calvin Klein not the workhouses. :rolleyes:

    Regards to all,

  10. I agree with you 1000%. I was just busting your chops here. Didn't you ever see the Monyt Python skit where Michael Palin is looking for an argument?


    Senator Jack
  11. Wink, Wink. Nudge, nudge. :p

    Regards to all,

  12. Biltmore Bob

    Biltmore Bob Suspended

    Spring, Texas... Y'all...
    I have said for years that this generation....

    has enabled our childrens dependency. My kids can't do a quarter of the things I could do at their respective ages. When I was eight I was raising 12 head of dairy calves, by myself. I was an acomplished automobile operator by twelve. I was left to my own devices more often than not. With no worries from my parents.
  13. Bebop

    Bebop Practically Family

    I want my Dr. to wear a tie.

    Dressing down has infected all parts of society. I can't stand the fact that most Doctors will not wear a tie or decent shoes. You can't tell the Doctors apart from the lab techs.
    I use airports alot and I am always amazed at what people look like when boarding a flight. Very few decently dressed people on board. Shorts, T-shirts, belly shirts and flip flop sandals. I come from a rather poor upbringing and my Dad wore a tie and shined his shoes and looked like a million bucks all through the poverty. He made sure my brother and I did also. If you saw photos of him and his family you would bet he had big bucks. It was important for us not to act or look like slobs in my upbringing. Being ashamed to look like you have money is just crazy. No one is saying flash a Rolex everywhere you go. I just think people should put more effort into setting a trend in dressing better. By the way, if you have a Rolex, you should not be ashamed to wear it wherever you want. To me, that was a mark of actually being financially stable, not rich.
  14. I can really relate to that. Just because you are poor doesn't mean that you have to look slovenly. If you see pictures of soup kitchens from the 1930s, you notice that even though the people were really down and out they took the time to keep their appearance up. Being poor didn't necessarily mean that they didn't take pride in their appearance. They would be ashamed to look like they were down and out even though they were.
    Perhaps that lead to the subject being referred to as "funk" in suits of that period. :p ;)

    Regards to all,

  15. Angelicious

    Angelicious One of the Regulars

    Rainy ol' New Zealand
    I think one mistake people have made since the post-1980s "conspicuous consumption" era is the difference between "well-dressed" and "expensively dressed".

    $15 white cotton t-shirt, or $50 white cotton t-shirt with a logo? Both made in the same asian factory...

    Also, hippies, punk and grunge have a little to answer for. As youth movements indicating the dissatisfaction of a generation with their calcified superiors and the hidebound and/or superficial nature of society, they weren't so bad (from a distance!). Once they became absorbed into mainstream fashion, it was all downhill from there...

    Plus, one of the issues with homogenised, egalitarian-verging-on-politically-correct democracy is that whole mentality that says it's embarrassing or inappropriate to be too anything. Too poor, too rich, too sloppy(?), too neat, too quiet, too loud, too clever, too stupid, too opinionated, too acquiescent... I sound like a Dr. Seuss book! Old Hat, New Hat!
  16. Hah! I wrote this word into my novel and then excised it fearing no one would know it. Cheers to keeping great vocabulary alive.


    Senator Jack
  17. shamus

    shamus Suspended

    LA, CA
    I think there is also a part of what people find important to them.

    For some it's appearance; clothes, haircuts, jewerly.

    For others it's cars; new model, expensive, clean.

    For others its their home.

    For others it's integrity; always saying what they believe in... the list goes on and on.

    So what you think is important, may not even be a thought to another and vs. versa.
  18. Biltmore Bob

    Biltmore Bob Suspended

    Spring, Texas... Y'all...
    The problem with air travel...

    IS, that it is so damn uncomfortable. And they make you half undress in order to make sure your not a terrorist. I like to dress nice but I think I would rather wear PJs when traveling by air.
  19. Lauren

    Lauren Distinguished Service Award

    Sunny California
    I thought of painting a portrait in period attire, but I'm talking like 1700s. There's nothing that would thrill the imagination for someone to see their great grandmother in blue jeans. Please. More than likely they'll be thinking how ugly their clothes were.
  20. Sefton

    Sefton Call Me a Cab

    As a native San Franciscan I would say that hippies have quite a lot to answer for! As a matter of fact, this Sunday the hippies are having a sort of wake/free concert in memory of a recently departed member of their group. The concert is to be held in Golden Gate Park where I work and will likely be packed with long haired miscreants (thank you James for using that wonderful word in your post. I'd forgotten it). I'm tempted to wear my finest English country gentleman's clothing and attend just so that I can look on in disdain.

    However it would most likely only lead to a possible allergic reaction, a fit of coughing from the horrid smoke from their "tobacco" and depression at the sad state of a great city. Oh, and I have to work on Sunday anyhow ;)
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