Art & Photography / In Pictures

The Fashion of Art History Reimagined Through Instagram

We meet the maker behind @artgarments, one of our new favourite Instagram accounts, thrusting art history's most exquisite sartorial details into the digital forum

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Despite making its Instagram debut just three months ago, the innovative new account @ArtGarments is already supplying a sartorially-inclined stream of pre-20th-century art to the handheld feeds of over 23,000 people. A shared project – and by all means, a consuming labour of love – by two inconspicuous individuals based in New York, the account frames intricate garment details and style notes from classical works by the likes of Alexis Joseph Perignon, Giacomo Ceruti and Frédéric Soulacroix through the most contemporary of social platforms. Here, one half of the enigmatic pair (who wishes to remain anonymous) explains why bringing ruffs and bustles to the frontline of digital culture is of paramount importance.  

On the premise of the account…
“My instinct at museums is always to touch my nose to the canvas to study brushstrokes or the combination of colours to achieve a particular effect, but of course, there are security guards and ropes and alarms. I like the idea that I can view a work of art privately and study it at my own pace: that I can highlight, and rearrange, make collages and side-by-side comparisons unencumbered by the hallowed space of the ‘museum’. I think that in that sense, technology really democratises works that were traditionally inaccessible to all.”

On her background…
“I grew up surrounded by artists and my childhood home was full of creative spaces and materials – my grandfather was a portrait and landscape painter, my aunt is a textile artist and seamstress who worked with Louise Bourgeois, and she was a major inspiration for this account.” 

On deciding what to feature…
“I sometimes work around a theme that I find interesting or surprising, such as gloves or flowers or stripes. Other times, it is truly organic and guided purely by aesthetics and curiosity about how certain details are rendered or by how a particular garment is worn. I’m inspired by the high drama of the ruff, the jabot, engageantes (the ruffled cuffs); I’m endlessly fascinated by the photographic quality of Dutch Golden Age paintings, and the flounces and fripperies of Rococo and Baroque fashion.”  

On engaging with fans…
“That people share my enthusiasm for the images is tremendously encouraging. I really love the feedback I get; they always teach me something that I didn’t know about a piece. Miguel Cabrera’s portrait of Dona Maria de la Luz Padilla y Cervantes, in which the sitter sports fashionable ‘chiqueadores’, false beauty marks, sparked a hilarious and instructive discussion about their significance.” 

On Instagram as a platform for art history…
“I always used Instagram for viewing art – I like that it privileges the visual and doesn’t necessarily lend itself to long form writing as some other platforms do; it’s purely visual. I also love hashtagging – I try to use hashtags consistently because initially, I was excited by the idea of building a database of details in art.”

On her favourite accounts…
“My favourites tend to be so focused on details that they make familiar objects new again – Fernando Medina’s gallery of (mostly) doors and windows in and around Mexico City is one of my favourites; I love Honitonlace’s gallery of side by side images of antique lace and its real-life counterparts, Lallabru posts images in threes and works around a different theme with each set, Carlos Mota’s account of travel images and design always inspire.”

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