Painterly vs. linear

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Somehow while uploading the pictures for my post with the CdG photographs I started to think about Wolfflin’s principles of analyzing of art described in his ‘Principles of Art History’. I mean this contradiction of painterly vs. linear, because for me the clothes on those photos look quite painterly (actually reminding me of Francis Bacon’s works). I tried to apply this concept to works of other designers as well. Thinking about it I found Dries van Noten, Lanvin, Rodarte, Vivien Westwood to be the painterly ones, while Givenchy, Jil Sander and Prada seems to be the examples of the ‘linear’ ones. Though sometimes it’s quite difficult to decide, for instance among Hussein Chalayan’s work there are some which are more graphical and ‘clean’ and the others where there are a beautifully chaotic mash up of textures, colors and volumes.

I remember that while reading Wolfflin the most interesting parts for me were the ones where the concept of ‘painterly vs. linear’ was described with examples from sculpture and architecture which for me speaks about the versatility of the concept.

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In case of fashion I think that the ‘painterly’ designers in general are the ones who work more with volume, cut and  textures, while the ‘linear’ are obviously so-called minimalists, designers whose works might be described as ‘structural’ and brands specializing in prints and patterns. Though sometimes ‘painterly’ and ‘linear’ elements could be combined in one outfit or in one collection.  All in all I think it’s interesting to try to apply this concept to fashion and see the results. I also think that it could be interesting to put in this context the work of different stylists.

Also I’d say that for me painterly vs. linear concept is in some sense one of many incarnations of the chaos vs. order juxtaposition and it might be case of why it’s so universal.

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5 comments

  1. I think you’re absolutely right in your commentary above! In my mind I never separated garments into these two categories, but it of course makes a whole lot of sense. I must say though the collections that I appreciate the most are the ones that are able to blend both together in a seamless way. A collection should have a clear, constant point of view. A collection that is able to combine unalike or contradictory references into something truly modern and contemporary is a winner in my book.

    • I agree with you. It’s one of the reasons that I like Theyskens’s Rochas so much – such a great mix of bourgeois and victorian gothic/dark elements. what’s your fav designers/collections?


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