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Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion

Despite his classical training, Jean-Gabriel Domergue is sensitive to the upheavals of his era and to the trends that they gave rise to. Artists’ sensibilities and their pursuit of “the beautiful” make them more aware of their environment. It is therefore only natural that they sense what is, and what will be, fashionable before anyone else.
After the First World War, people in the 1920s were enjoying jazz, the Charleston and discovering speed with the automobile. These “wild years” (1919-1929) were replaced with modernity and women’s emancipation.
During this period, Paul Poiret reigns over Parisian fashion and the society which he dresses. He liberated women from the corset, creating fluid and natural forms. There is a strong contrast between the boyish daywear and the ultra feminine eveningwear covered in lamé and rich embroidery.
Jean-Gabriel Domergue remains the most representative painter of fashion. He is a reliable observer, sensitive to the whims of women’s clothing but how much did his imagination alter the everyday reality?
Evidently the elegant ladies wearing garishly coloured dresses with panniers do not correctly represent fashion in the 1920s. However, women at that time are delighted to be seen with such romanticism and imperceptibly wish to emulate these models.
For Jean-Gabriel Domergue, what matters most is that the shape of the woman is respected. “As long as the couturier is willing to admit that women have a body, that the dress is made for the body, and not the body for the dress, then fashion is beautiful and all is well. One has to be able to guess the woman’s form through the fabric and sense that she is able to move freely. Movement is what gives the lines their beauty, their fullness, their grace. It is movement not immobility that brings her to life and animates her. I love fashion which, not only allows the litheness of the woman’s body, but requires it.”

Domergue often paints women wearing a fourreau dress with a bustier. It moulds the body perfectly and the ‘chic’ with which it is worn prevents any indecency. 

Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion   Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion


Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion




Fashion accessories

The bustier is an audacious adaptation, especially in 1921, of daring necklines from the 18th Century when Watteau and Fragonard were arbiters of feminine evolution, launching fashions (photo p.68). It allows the most feminine of attributes to be highlighted without vulgarity. It also allows Domergue to bring out the lines of the shoulders and the neck which appears elongated as he is fond of doing.     




Some similarities show the impact of his innovations and how they united art and fashion. Domergue’s art well and truly had an influence on fashion in his day as the flouncy fourreau dress would become fashionable in 1935.
Following the fashion of the bust, Domergue is fond of highlighting the graceful lines of hands with gloves which act like “fourreaux or sheathes for the arms” and also shows the bustier to advantage.               

Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion

Portraits by Domergue concede an important place to accessories which the artist masters with taste to better perfect the woman’s body.
Frequently, Domergue softens the slightly strict line of the fourreau dress by adding a parasol. This accessory creates the most charming poses and Domergue goes as far as to organize a ball in 1923 to make it fashionable again! He would go on to do the same with fans which he loves, particularly black or made of ostrich feathers.
Furthermore, the use of the parasol enables a subtle play of light due to its transparence in the sun which enhances the face.                  

Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion

Looking closely at the faces, there is a noticeable attention to the hairstyles and to hair in general, which becomes a veritable element of seduction.

Domergue often dresses his models with a “Bibi” or a small hat featuring a veil or feathers which comes down over the forehead highlighting the curve of the hairline. The hat is a relatively recent fashion: separated from the costume due to its protruding rim and changing lines, it dates back to Marie-Antoinette and her famous milliner, Madame Bertin. Then, it is under Louis-Philippe (1830-1848) that large women’s hats were replaced by tiny “Bibi” hats.  

Through his use of hats, Domergue not only diplays his talent as a painter but also his talent as a designer, as the “Bibi” hats worn by his models were not haphazard choices. He made them himself, adapting the design to the image he wished to render of his model.                

Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion   Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion
Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion    

Domergue maintains a sensual taste for materials. Sumptuous gold and silver fabrics which shimmer and sparkle recalling China, the Orient, Italy, Spain and the Silk Road which are glorified once more.

Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion

Domergue soon understood that the elegance, refinement and richness of the models’ dress put the finishing touches to the dream that he had created. The ‘revelation’ of Jean-Gabriel Domergue seduces a large audience. Fashion designers pick up on this and use it to fuel their imagination: their clients want to resemble ‘a Domergue’.

Jean Gabriel Domergue through fashion

Jean-Gabriel Domergue paints himself with his wife, an example of elegance, walking with their greyhounds on Avenue Foch in Paris.