Balenciaga And Spain, The Art Of Cristobal Balenciaga At de Young Museum

04/02/2011 04:00 am ET | Updated Jun 01, 2011

Cristobal Balenciaga: "His name became synonymous with perfection and elegance."
~ Baroness Pauline de Rothschild, 1973

On March 26, 2011, the Balenciaga and Spain will open at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. The exhibition -- curated by Hamish Bowles, European editor at large of Vogue -- features 120 haute couture garments, hats and headdresses designed by Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972). The collection illustrates Balenciaga's expansive creative vision, which incorporated references to Spanish art -- with the iconic 1939 Infanta dress, a modernist interpretation of the dresses worn by the Infanta Margarita in Velazquez's celebrated portraits -- bullfighting, dance, regional costume and the pageantry of the royal court and religious ceremonies.

As legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland described him, "Balenciaga was the true son of a strong country filled with style, vibrant color and a fine history, "who" remained forever a Spaniard...

You can feel the pulse of Spain beat in every garment in Balenciaga and Spain. A dress ruffle and polka-dot patterns inspired by the flamenco dancers; sumptuous embroidery and embellishments that glitters on a bolero jacket worn by a matador; clean and simple lines that extrapolate the minimalist rhythms and volumes of the vestments of Spanish nuns and priests; a velvet-trimmed evening gown aesthetically indebted to the farthingale robe of a Velazquez Infanta.

Cecil Beaton hailed him as " Fashion's Picasso": "In his work Balenciaga shows the refinement of France and the strengh of Spain. He uses fabric like a sculptor working in marble."

Cristobal Balenciaga. Detail of cocktail dress of fuchsia silk shantung and black lace with black silk satin ribbons, summer 1966. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Eleanor Christensen de Guigne Collection (Mrs. Christian de Guigne III), gift of Ronna and Eric Hoffman. Photo by Joe McDonald/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Cristobal Balenciaga. Detail of evening bolero jacket of burgundy silk velvet and jet and passementerie embroidery by Bataille, winter 1946. Collection of Hamish Bowles. Photo by Kenny  Komer

Cristobal Balenciaga.  House photograph of evening ensemble; dress of black silk crepe and "chou" wrap of black silk gazar, winter 1967.  Photo courtesy of Balenciaga Archives, Paris.

Cristobal Balenciaga. Detail of cocktail dress of rose peau de soie and black lace, winter 1948. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, gift of Mrs. C. H. Russell. Photo by Joe McDonald/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Cristobal Balenciaga. Evening ensemble of black silk gazar and wool, ca. 1951.  Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Gift of Elise Haas. Photo by Joe McDonald/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Cristóbal Balenciaga, Cocktail hat of ivory silk satin, 1953. Originally published in Vogue, October 15, 1953. Photo: John Rawlings
Courtesy of de Young Museum, San Francisco
Balenciaga and Spain, March 26 - July 4, 2011 Via Trouvaillesdujour