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In the late 18th century, “natural grace” meant to strictly follow etiquette and to make it seem easy and effortless.
Thomas Gainsborough’s Lady Walking in a Garden is, among other things, about fashion’s pivotal role in this delicate social task. The more complicated the dress, the more impractical for walking, the more difficult it was to wear it with elegance and nonchalance—and the more admirable if one succeeded in displaying natural grace.
This sketch is featured in the exhibition The Art of the Fold: Drawings of Drapery and Costume at the Getty Center through January 10, 2016.