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  • Pictured at left: Félix Vallotton, Le Retour de la Mer, 1924
    Musées d’Art et d’Histoire de la Ville de Genève, gift of the Société auxiliaire du musée, 1929

    (right) Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, December 2013 

  • Pictured at left: Gustav Klimt, Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III), 1917-1918

    Photo (from left): © Property of The Lewis Collection; Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, December 2013 

  • Pictured at left: Anders Zorn, Portrait of Mrs. Grover Cleveland, 1899
    Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

    (right) Photographed by Annie Leibovitz, Vogue, December 2013 


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Jessica Chastain recreates famous paintings for Vogue USA

It´s always visually and intellectually stimulating to see a fashion editorial that explores the relationship between art and fashion, trying not only to depict that clothes are often a strong element of a painting’s composition but also to establish connections between different styles, fashions, cultural movements and historical periods in a journey to the ever inspiring world of the artistic creation. This is the case of the December issue of Vogue USA that features Jessica Chastain shot by Annie Leibovitz, in a series of photos that recreate famous paintings of renowned artists, among them Vincent Van Gogh, Renée Magritte or Gustav Klimt. The editorial was conceived long before this spring’s fashion inspired collections, as Anna Wintour points out, and Jessica Chastain, with her ethereal beauty and ongoing love affair with fashion brands like Yves Saint Laurent, seemed like the perfect choice.

The amazing cover features the academy award nominated actress wearing a yellow Theory by Theyskens’ gown in a pose that evokes the “Flaming June” (1895) painting by Frederic Leighton. The story behind this figurative painting is quite interesting, since it wasn´t always considered to be of great value. The piece was auctioned for the last time in the early 1960s, failing to sell at its lowest reserve price. Thankfully enough, Luis A. Ferré, a politician and art patron from Puerto Rico, purchased the painting in a visit to France and placed it to the Museo de Arte de Ponce that he founded in his hometown back in 1959. The amazing painting can still be seen today at the museum and serves as an interesting allegory on the way trends affect fashion and art.

In the next series of photos, we can see Jessica Chastain posing as the heroine of Felix Vallotton’s “Le Retour de la Mer” painting (1924) , in a blue Alexander Wang dress that makes her look as stunning and mysterious as the original painting’s model. The famous piece of the Franco-Swiss painter will be featured at an upcoming exhibition dedicated to his pictorial and graphic work at the Vincent Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (14 February – 1 June 2014). Later on, Jessica is depicted in a lustful pose inspired by Henri Matisse’s “Odalisque with Red Culottes” painting, which is permanently on view at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. The model in the original painting is Henriette Darricarrère, the first in a series of models posing in harem outfits for Matisse’s odalisque paintings of the 1920s. Hilary Spurling, author of a new biography of the artist that argues that the women he painted were full partners in the creative enterprise, reveals that Henriette was spotted by Matisse working as an extra in the film studios of Nice and worked with him during seven years. As Spurling points out, “Matisse said it was essential to start by finding the pose that made any new model feel most comfortable. Henriette’s specialty was discovered by accident after a carnival party attended by Matisse and his daughter, dressed respectively as an Arab potentate and a beauty from the harem. (…) He liked her natural dignity, the graceful way her head sat on her neck and, above all, the fact that her body caught the light like a sculpture.”

Jessica Chastain also poses in a Vera Wang’s hand painted gown, evoking Gustav Klimt’s “Frauenbildnis (Portrait of Ria Munk III)” painting of 1918 , which can be seen at the “Facing the Modern: The Portrait in Vienna 1900” exhibition at the National Gallery of London until January 12. The photo pays homage to Klimt’s romantic imaginary, with Chastain’s porcelain beauty stealing the spotlight. The fashion spread continues with a photo of Chastain in an Oscar de la Renta gown, inspired by Swedish artist Andres Zorn and his commissioned portrait of Grover Cleveland’s wife, Frances Folsom Cleveland. The original portrait, as Vogue points out, now resides at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. In the following photo, Chastain becomes a Vincent Van Gogh heroine, recreating the iconic “La Mousmé” painting that he created in 1888, just two years before his death. The piece, which features a well-dressed Japanese girl and was inspired by Pierre Loti’s novel “Madame Chrysanthème” as well as by Japanese art, is now on display at The National Gallery of Art of Washington, D.C. The painting serves as an excellent example of Van Gogh’s use of contrasting patterns and colors that bring an emotional energy and intensity to the painting. Annie Leibovitz, with the inestimable help of Grace Coddington, created a modern version of “La Mousmé” full of beauty and passion.

The last two photos pay homage to Renée Magritte and Julia Margaret Cameron. In the first photo we can notice how Chastain’s naked back under the light of a rising moon evokes Magritte’s “La Robe du Soir” painting (1955), in an excellent mix of fantasy and sensuality. In the last photo of this fantastic fashion spread, Leibovitz is inspired by the work of Julia Margaret Cameron, a photographer that treated her subjects as if they were mythical or literary creatures. Jessica Chastain is here portrayed in black and white, with an ambiguous look in her face, in a recreation of a famous photo of Cameron, entitled “Christabel” (1866). The original photo depicted Cameron’s niece, May Prinsep, and was a tribute to the doomed young woman from Samuel Taylor Coledridge’s Christabel poem. The photo currently forms part of a Julia Margaret Cameron retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on exhibit until January 5.