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Félix Edouard Vallotton. "Laziness," 1896.

Like your best fashion-forward friend (nice midi skirt, lady), the big summer exhibit that opened this week at the Art Institute is demanding a lot of attention.

It’s an exploration of style as captured by famous Impressionist painters--and you’ll definitely go, because seeing the actual ball gown worn in an 1870s Manet portrait displayed next to the painting itself is totally irresistible.

But while you’re there, set aside a half hour to explore the provocative companion exhibit, “Undressed: The Fashion of Privacy." (Galleries 124-127.) 

The main exhibit in Regenstein Hall celebrates 19th-century clotheshorses dressed to the hilt. But in “Undressed”--a smaller survey of 120 drawings, prints, paintings, photographs and sculptures--the people aren’t wearing much of anything at all.

The scenes are intimate and personal: women bathing, mother-and-child moments, people sleeping, reading and engaging in, ahem, illicit relationships. 

Look for The Tub, a bronze Edgar Degas sculpture that folds a female figure into a shallow bath, and works from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s famous Elles portfolio, a series of prints devoted to quiet moments inside a brothel. 

It’s art for voyeurs--go ahead, take a peek.

Art Institute of Chicago, 111 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-443-3600 or

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