A clutch of Yves Saint Laurent shows in Paris

From now right until the conclude of spring, Parisians and visitors will have their fill of Yves Saint Laurent. With 50 percent a dozen simultaneous exhibitions on the trend designer at the Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville, Musée Picasso, Musée Yves Saint Laurent and the Musée du Louvre, the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent has scored a dizzying double hat-trick, a veritable 6-gun salute to the bespectacled a person.

Supplied the marathon proportions of these an exegesis, does it truly have to have six shows to plumb Saint Laurent’s infatuation with the great arts? Because infatuation it was, or a lot more precisely, a dependency. Matisse, Léger, Picasso and Mondrian were his gods. All showcased in the collection he started out setting up in the 1950s with his lover and small business partner Pierre Bergé. Most manner designers have an equanimous beg-borrow-steal connection with artwork but Saint Laurent was in thrall to it. He was never equipped to aspect even temporarily with his Goya, for occasion, cancelling a promised personal loan of the Portrait of Don Luis María de Cistué to the Prado at the previous second.

Veste hommage à Pablo Picasso (1979), Yves Saint Laurent.

Veste hommage à Pablo Picasso (1979), Yves Saint Laurent. Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris. Image: Nicolas Mathéus © Yves Saint Laurent

(1937), Pablo Picasso. (1937), Pablo Picasso.

Portrait of Nusch Eluard (1937), Pablo Picasso. Image: © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée national Picasso-Paris)/Adrien Didierjean © Succession Picasso – Gestion droits d’auteur

It was the Mondrian gown that gave the designer his initial commercial blockbuster in 1965. Saint Laurent obeyed Piet Mondrian’s neo-plastic manifesto to the letter. He selected the A-line condition that André Courrèges experienced unleashed on the runways a yr prior to, a silhouette as shut as a single could get to a canvas. But there remained a essential contradiction: very little is extra of the authentic and bodily below-and-now that Mondrian’s artwork disdained than a costume, no issue how several concessions it makes to hips and boobs. When you consider about it, the Mondrian cocktail costume unquestionably disembowelled the Dutchman’s principle of pure abstraction. Although probably the Dutchman, staying a lady’s guy, would not have cared. Possibly the artwork in costume form transmuted to the putting on of it, building the Mondrian dress performative. Or probably, as Sonia Delaunay sniffed, it was no for a longer time artwork at all, just ‘a type of society entertainment’, ‘a circus’. Saint Laurent instructed style historians Florence Müller and Farid Chenoune, ‘I realised that we experienced to stop wondering of a garment as sculpture and, as a substitute, we experienced to see it as cell.’ In art conditions a neo-plastic gown disturbed the contemplation of universal attractiveness. In vogue terms these mini-attire swung.

From time to time the romance between YSL and the artist was simple theft. Like the peasant blouse he knocked off Matisse’s La Blouse Roumaine (1940). Future to a couple strokes of a coronary heart-shaped ovoid with almost nothing much more than a minimize-out trapezoid below and a triangle there of ornamental motifs to advise a folks shirt, it is a little deflating to see the literal shirt (hooked up to skirt) hanging suitable up coming to it, stunning though it is.

Occasionally the museums’ match-ups amongst Saint Laurent and artist are lazy: just take the Pop Art pairing of an Autumn 1966 robe bifurcated by a long dancer’s leg with Gary Hume’s substantial-kicking, large-gloss The Moon (2009) like Hume, Saint Laurent was a fan of Tom Wesselmann’s Excellent American Nudes but genuinely, we know, it was all about the matching gams.

There are also some noteworthy absences. The Musée d’Orsay exhibition did not consist of Saint Laurent’s Van Gogh jackets of sunflowers and irises, whose Lesage beading mimics the gloss and swirl of Van Gogh’s knife-used paint to perfection. Also a no-exhibit is the hieratic chiffon robe and veil with Claude Lalanne’s moulded copper breasts that Saint Laurent manufactured for Autumn-Winter season 1969.

Breasts were Saint Laurent territory. Knees were where Courrèges planted his flag. Alongside one another they vaporised the French Catholic prudishness of the 1950s and early ’60s, but Saint Laurent was the racier one particular. Virtually two a long time prior to Jean Paul Gaultier’s cone breasts in 1984, popularised by Madonna, came Saint Laurent’s in a totemic black Bambara dress. The dress’s wood-beaded, rhodoid-disc patterning summons an picture of the sculptures of the Malian Bambara men and women, whose artwork figured in André Breton’s cabinet of curiosities. Even though Yves Saint Laurent dipped into an assortment of cultures, including chinoiserie for a assortment in 1977, the Centre Pompidou draws a line in between the dress of 1967 and bronze raffia coat and the African-influenced avant-gardism of Braque, Derain and Picasso.

Saint Laurent was excellent at capturing a painter’s intentions with the couturier’s language of fabric, shirring, and draping. On his Domino gown of 1984, Saint Laurent realized some of the gymnastic thrust and twist of Matisse’s Dance inachevée (1931) with pleats and undulating black bands. Moiré satin provides a sense of motion way too with its optical interference results. Like the fresco now restored in the Musée de l’Art Moderne de la Ville, the robe is in the similar wintry palette of blue, pink, grey. In other places, Bonnard and Vuillard are satisfyingly rendered in dappled, color-saturated, mild attire with puffed-sleeve naivety. He interpreted Sonia Delaunay at the Centre Pompidou in his have way with streamers, starfish designs, and bits and bobs of coarser, jewel-toned fabric, crudely patchworked on to the skirt. Saint Laurent’s apparel was constantly refined to a fault. But the pretty much hippie quilting of his Delaunay dress reveals he was conscious of the ‘simultaneous’ dresses the artist commenced building in 1913.

The Garden Bonnard

The Backyard garden (c. 1937), Pierre Bonnard. Musée d’Art Moderne, Paris.

Ensemble inspired by Pierre Bonnard (Spring-Summer 2001), Yves Saint Laurent. Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris.

Ensemble motivated by Pierre Bonnard (Spring-Summer season 2001), Yves Saint Laurent. Musée Yves Saint Laurent, Paris. © Yves Saint Laurent/Nicolas Mathéus

In some cases Saint Laurent’s attire surpassed the will work that encouraged them. The relief ornamentation of a gown surrounded by Fernand Léger’s canvases of cones and spheres and cylinders in the Pompidou is even far better than Léger’s compositions, far more alive in color and much less calculated in spatial arrangement. To Léger’s Euclidean geometry, Saint Laurent answered with a kinetic scramble of what currently looks like road graffiti.

Continue to, after you trudge by way of exhibition right after exhibition, the dresses become a miasma of exquisiteness, a surfeit of bow-tied waists and oval necklines. Natural beauty was Saint Laurent’s dangle-up, his Achilles heel. He the moment instructed his pal the jewelry designer Loulou de la Falaise, ‘Symmetry calms me down, lack of symmetry would make me outrageous.’ But early Yves could be jarring, even ugly. Saint Laurent’s couture demonstrate of January 1971 was chock-a-block with ’40s wedge heels, large shoulder pads and a wonderful, small fox coat dyed hideous eco-friendly. The Centre Pompidou has hung the jacket subsequent to Martial Raysse’s Created in Japan – La Grande Odalisque (1964), a funny, dime-retailer acquire on Ingres’ popular portray. Though the gaudy greens make the comparison seem facile at 1st, there is a phone and response in between Saint Laurent’s maligned fur and Raysse’s a person-eyed mail-up. Deliberate ugliness was anything Raysse’s kitsch Odalisque and Yves’s jacket experienced in popular. There can be an expansiveness, an astringent liberty in ugliness that elegance is too uptight for. ‘Beauty is terrible taste,’ Raysse has reported. ‘Bad style is the dream of splendor as well substantially desired.’

Sketches of headdresses made for the Bal des Têtes (1957), Yves Saint Laurent. Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris.

Sketches of headdresses made for the Bal des Têtes (1957), Yves Saint Laurent. Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris. © Yves Saint Laurent/Nicolas Mathéus

If artist he was, Yves Saint Laurent’s artwork suffered from his infatuation with gorgeousness. In 1992, he explained, ‘I am a unsuccessful painter.’ However the watercolours in the Musée d’Orsay clearly show, painted by Yves Saint Laurent when he was 21, of frivolous pineapple headdresses and flower-laden follies, had a speedy, easy, exultant hand akin to Raoul Dufy’s. Immediately after 1992, with Saint Laurent surrounded by Mondrians, Picassos and Matisses in his possess household, art no longer went into his do the job. Long gone ended up the appropriations that make vogue radical, artwork fascinating. All that was remaining were beautiful clothing.

‘Yves Saint Laurent aux Musées’ is at numerous venues, Paris, till 16 May. 

From the March 2022 challenge of Apollo. Preview and subscribe in this article.

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