All text, concepts and images ©2009- 2014, Debra Healy
unless otherwise stated.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Madame Grès in Paris

Musee Bourdelle
16 rue Antoine Bourdelle-Paris XV
25 March-24 July 2011
 Horst French Vogue April 1935

A sculpture museum is an inspired venue for the exhibition 
of the sculptress turned couturier  Madame Gres. 
She was a true Paris Original.

Musee Bourdelle

The Musee Bourdelle the home and studio of the late sculpter Antoine Bourdelle
now one of the marvelous small museums of the city of Paris.

Madame Gres created her toiles on a living model, cutting, draping, folding and
pinning. She must have had  very patient fitting models.

Described by Edmonde-Charles Roux Vogue 1964

“She is like Melusine , the fairy, (the feminine spirit of fresh waters and sacred springs) , playing at being a nun; she is an Abbess riding in a Mercedes; she is something effacing itself and yet triumphant…a timid pirate with plenty of verve under his turban …she is busy, always obstinate, always alert of eye, at times a bit trembling, a little anxious. But let any wild animal beware, let any great beast who might dare to lie down and block her path beware.  I wouldn’t give a cent for his skin. He would be flattened pulverized, changed into a rug, because Madame Gres is the personification of Will…She is determination in person,..."

Born Germaine Emilie Krebs (1903–1993). She originally trained to be a sculptress.  She credited herself with only three months of training in cutting and draping before she was thrust in to the world of haute couture. She was initially known as Alix Barton and later as Madame Grès. launched her design house under the name Grès  in 1942. Pior to that she designed under the name Alix. Her lovely signature Grecian gowns meticulously crafted with draperies, and cut-outs which made the exposed skin part of the design.

 Her  unsurpassed artistry; which is a masterfully displayed in this exhibition at the Musee Bourdelle.  It is  a tribute to the eternal sculptural quality of her work The dress mannequins are each mounted on sculpture stands displayed amongst the statues within the workshops of Antoine Bourdelle’s museum.
Throughout her long career she dressed some of the most famous and fashionable women of the 20th century Marlene Dietrich,the Duchess of Windsor, Greta Garbo, Delores Del Rio, and Jacqueline Kennedy, to name a few. Madame Gres’s most famous perfume was called "Cabochard" which means pig headed in French, I have a new found respect for her, and her sense of irony.
There is an exquisite catalog  in French ISBN978-2-7596-0157-8 published by Paris Musees

She often worked with wool jersey,


This elegant simple necklace looks like the enchanting 
Ribambelles paper cut-outs so popular with children in the 1930's 

Harper's Bazaar January 1937

 Jean Moral(1906-1999) for Harper's Bazaar 1936 
Looks like the "new look" by Gres before the war 

One can see from her original drawings the deft hand, and her deep understanding of the human figure.

 Man Ray for Harper's Bazaar 1937
Gown made with 81 yards or purple Mousseline
with ruching in green and purple on the bottom

photo by Hoyningen-Huene
Harper's Bazaar 1938

Drawing by Christian Berard for French Vogue 1937

Photo by Eugene Rubin 1946


 Tartan, 1955

Irving Penn Vogue 1964
Madame Grès enjoyed years of critical successes, she sold the business in the 1980s 


Little Augury said...

stunning images Debra-thank you for this glimpse. she must have been a Greek siren in another life. these gowns have no other resemblance in fashion do they? Gaye

Debra Healy said...

I see echoes in Issey Miyaki
Azzedine Alaia, and Vivienne Westwood.
There was a Tartan number from the 1950's...
It is a fascinating exhibition, and the museum is wonderful.

Kathryn Lovell said...

Amazing images! Thank you!