Hats in Art

Here is a selection of paintings throughout history that involve hats.


Pablo Picasso - Portrait of Jacinto Salvado as Harlequin - 1923
Oil on Canvas.

Fancy Dress Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Edouard Manet - Boating - 1874
Oil on Canvas.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the straw boater became synonymous with summer leisure. In the hard-scrabble, often oppressive Industrial Revolution, leisure time for many was hard to come by. Owning and wearing a straw boater (a.k.a. skimmer or sailor straw) was the wearer's badge that life had become more than simply hard work. Manet, as well as other artists of the time, use the boater as a symbol of the good life and the emergence of "leisure" as a right and privilege.

Straw Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Rene Magritte - Le Mois Des Vendanges (The Time of Harvest) - 1959
Oil on Canvas.

The bowler (or derby) hat was created in 1850. Books have been written (literally) about the symbolic significance of this apparel item and its relationship to the Modern Age. Magritte is not alone in using the bowler/derby as an icon in art, theatre, or literature. Samuel Beckett, Milan Kundera, Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Toulouse-Lautrec, Seurat, Grosz, Lawrence, and others also found that this hat had iconic resonance and included it in their work. For more on this read THE MAN IN THE BOWLER HAT: His History and Iconography by Fred Miller Robinson.

Bowler hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Edgar Degas - Portraits at the Stock Exchange - 1879
Pastel on paper, pieced and laid down on canvas.

Beginning with the French Consulate And Empire period in Western history (1800-1815) and escalating into the Romantic Period (1815-1840), the high beaver hat supplanted the cocked hat or the bi/tricorn as the mode in men’s fashion. When, by 1890, the St. James Gazette writes “When we are told, ‘He’s a fellow who wears a top hat and a frock coat,’ we know sufficiently well what sort of fellow he is”, the hat’s connotations are well established. No doubt that the top hat is contributing to Degas' point about these stock exchange denizens, their social strata, and the modern culture in general.

Top hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.

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Claude Monet - The Terrace at Sainte-Adresse - 1867
Oil on canvas, 38 1/2 x 51 1/4.

From a "hat perspective", this 1867 work is particularly interesting in that it is the earliest European art work, that I am aware of, depicting a Panama hat. "Panama Hats" although actually made in Ecuador, became important trade items in the mid-19th Century as commercial vessels passed the coast of S. America (spurred on by the California gold rush) before and after rounding Cape Horn. These hats became very fashionable in the eastern USA and Europe. Monet's seated gentleman appears to be wearing a model with a telescope crown, approximately 2 3/4 inch brim, with a black grosgrain ribbon band. This style, often called a "Gambler" is currently very popular. Given all the flowers in bloom and the lady with a sun parasol, I believe that the season is right for this straw and not the heavy felt top hat also depicted in the work. Is Monet contrasting these two, in part via their headgear?

Panama Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Ernest Meissonier - 1814, The French Campaign - 1864
Oil on wood. Louvre, Paris.

Napoleon and his staff are returning from Soissons after the battle of Laon (this is not the retreat from Moscow as is often assumed). The "cocked hats" or "bi-corns" that you see pictured here, along with tri-corns (worn both in military and civilian life) preceded top hats as the felt hat of choice by men of means.


Walker Evans - Subway Portrait - 1938-41
Photograph.

This Walker Evans photograph is in the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The period of the photograph, 1938-41, was well before that January, 1960 fateful day in the hat business when John F. Kennedy took off his hat during his inaguration thus signaling a change in headwear fashion that has never been fully reversed. This couple on the subway, like virtually anyone in those days, wear their fashionable beret  and fedora hat  as comfortably and naturally as they wear any other apparel. His hat, the pinch-crown, snap-brim, fedora with approximately a 2 5/8 inch brim was de rigueur in the 1930s and 1940s.


Karl Rossinsky - Be A Good Boy - 1969
Photograph. Israel, 1969

"Be A Good Boy" is a photograph by Karl Rossinsky. Israel, 1969.

Bowler hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Karl Rossinsky - The Vanishing Three Gorges - 1991
Photograph.

Men's hats and women's hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Peter Paul Rubens - Portrait of Susanna Lunden (Le Chapeau de Paille) - 1622-1625
Oil on oak.

The hat in this picture gave it the nickname Le chapeau de Paille (The straw hat) even though the hat pictured is a felt hat. It might be due to a translation/documentation error as felt in french is poil. This type of hat was fashionable for both men and women in the Netherlands in the 1620s, when this painting was made. These beaver hats were a status symbol like the expensive pearl earrings and were only worn by the rich.

Women's occasion hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Thomas Gainsborough - Portrait of Mrs. Siddons - 1785
Here is an English portrait painter whose name is synonymous with the lady's hat style that he is famous for painting!

Thomas Gainsborough, English portrait painter, influenced feminine fashion. The Gainsborough hat had a low crown and a wide brim that turned up at one side, trimmed with plumes and taffeta or velvet ribbon. Designed to cover elaborate headdress.

Women's occasion hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


James Whistler - Portrait of My Mother - 1871
Oil on canvas.

James Whistler: "Portrait of My Mother".


Pablo Picasso - Jacqueline in a Turkish Jacket - 1955
Oil on canvas.

Pillbox hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Paul Cezanne - The Card Players - 1892-95

Oil on Canvas.

Gambler hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Petrus Christus - A Goldsmith in his Shop - 1449

Oil on canvas.

Petrus Christus, A Goldsmith in his Shop, Possibly Saint Eligius
Fancy Dress hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn - Self Portrait - 1640
Oil on Canvas.

Fancy Dress hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Vincent Van Gogh - Self-Portrait with a straw hat - 1888

Van Gogh painted at least twenty-four self-portraits in Paris between March 1886 and February 1888, including seven in which he wears a straw hat; this work shows the artist's awareness of Neo-Impressionist technique and color theory.

Mens Straw hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Vincent Van Gogh - Portrait of Joseph Roulin - 1889
Oil on Canvas.

Fisherman Caps similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Karl Rossinsky - Cuernavaca Bakery - 1972
Photograph.

Women's straw hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Rembrandt - Saskia in a Red Hat - 1634-42
Oil on Panel, 39 1/2 x 31 in.

Saskia, Rembrandt's wife, is depicted in various hats and headdresses in her husband's works. In fact, Rembrandt was known to be a great collector of hats and costumes.
Women's occasion hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Marc Chagall - The Green Fiddler - 1918
Oil on canvas, 195.6 x 108 cm.

Marc Chagall's fiddlers, often floating over eastern European villages, wear caps that were commonly worn by European working class men in the 19th and early 20th Centuries. In many places, this headgear is not uncommon today. We see variations of this cap on the Dutch boy, the German bargeman, and, of course, the very popular Greek Fisherman's Cap.
Fisherman Caps similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Louis Choris - Exotic Subjects - 1822
French artist Louis Choris's depiction of San Francisco Mission Indians, 1822.

It is certainly unfortunate that much of the history of California's earliest human inhabitants has been lost. We know from the archaeological record that human habitation of what is now California dates from at least 13,000 years ago (Brain Fagan, Before California, Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). Here we see French artist Louis Choris's rendering in 1822 of San Francisco Mission Indians in headdresses. To my mind, this headwear is reminiscent of what we see today in the Amazon regions of South America.


François Boucher - Madame Bergeret - 1750
Francois Boucher's portrait of Madame Bergeret, ca. 1750s. Madame Bergeret is holding her "Bergere" straw hat, also known as the "Shepherdess," "Milkmaid", or "Skimmer."

They were often worn "gipsy" style, with a ribbon that tied under the chin encircling the head. Bergeres had long been worn in rural England; in August 1667 Samuel Pepys noted in his diary that the ladies in the country wore these straw hats, which "...did become them mightily." Straw had been used in hatmaking for centuries, the finest was Leghorn or Tuscan straw from Italy. The scarcity and expense of this straw caused local milliners to experiment with different native straws. Soon English and American women were making fine straw hats. It was a laborious process; the straw was first split, then plaited (braided) into sections which were then sewn together by hand, and blocked into shape. from HATS & BONNETS by Susan Langley, Collector

Women's Straw Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Toulouse-Lautrec - Le Divan Japonais - 1892
This Toulouse-Lautrec poster depicts Jane Avril and Edward Dujardin in "Gay 90s" Paris. Avril is wearing a hat similar to those designed by famous Parisian milliner Madame Virot. Virot collaborated with well-known courtiers of the day; the December 17, 1892 cover of Harper's Bazar Magazine shows a lady wearing a Virot hat. Virot is even mentioned in Edith Warton novels. Note also the importance of Dujardin's topper as the crucial element in his sartorial statement.

Women's Formal Hats and Men's Top Hats similar to the ones pictured here can be seen on our site.


Patrick LoCicero - Istanbul - 2003
Oil on Paper with Collage.

Contemporary artist Patrick LoCicero often uses a strong representational image in the center of his otherwise more abstract themed collages. A hat is often his central image. Regular readers on our site will not be surprised by LoCiceros's choice of hats as strong symbolic, even iconographic, centerpieces. In this work, Istanbul, LoCicero has chosen, what looks like, an optimo style Panama Hat. I assume that the artist is familiar with the properties of this hat. For example, this traveller panama style can be folded laterally along the creased crown and niftily rolled for packing and travel.
Panama Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Eastman Johnson - Woman Reading - 1874
Oil on cardboard.

This work by American Eastman Johnson caught my attention. The painting was done circa 1874, pre-dating the introduction of the sun visor by a couple decades. The hat however is functioning almost exclusively as a sun visor - note the shadow on the woman's face. The hat is clearly important, even central (am I biased?) in the work. Note the lack of vibrant colours in the artist's palette save the red border of the braided straw. Also, I believe she has changed the hat on her head from its intended position so that it serves as an aid to her reading. Form follows function. Sun visors can be seen on our site.


Pablo Picasso - Self-portrait - 1902
This 1902 self-portrait by Pablo Picasso depicts the artist wearing a beret. The beret's origins are usually traced to the Basque region of Europe in the Pyrenees Mountains, the natural border between France and Spain. For more on the history of the beret and why this hat may have been a favorite of this Spanish artist who spent much of his career in France, visit our info page about The Beret.


Auguste Renoir - Two sisters (On the Terrace) - 1881
Oil on canvas.

This is one of the most popular paintings from Auguste Renoir. It shows two lovely young women on a beautiful day on a terrace with a view. The girls both wear hats decorated with flowers.
Kids Hats can be seen on our site.


Mary Cassatt - The Daughter of Alexander Cassatt - 1879
Oil on canvas.

This painting shows the daughter of Alexander Cassatt, the brother of Mary Cassatt. She is wearing a big Occasion Hat.

Occasion Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Berthe Morisot - On the Lake - 1889
Oil on canvas.

Occasion Hats similar to the ones pictured here can be seen on our site.


Auguste Renoir - Dance at Moulin de la Galette - 1876
Oil on canvas.

When boater hats, top hats and bowler hats were worn by gentlemen dancing on a summer evening in Paris.

Straw Hats similar to the ones pictured here can be seen on our site.


Agnolo Bronzino - Portrait of a Young Man with a Book - 1540
Oil on Wood.

Berets similar to the ones pictured here can be seen on our site.


Edouard Manet - The Monet Family in their garden at Argenteuil - 1874
Oil on Canvas.

Occasion Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Edvard Munch - Angst (Anxiety) from L'Album des Peintres Graveurs - 1896
Oil on Canvas.

Top Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec - Jane Avril - 1899
Color lithograph on tan wove paper.

Occasion Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Jose Clemente Orozco - Zapatistas - 1931
Oil on Canvas.

Straw Hats similar to the one pictured here can be seen on our site.


Max Ernst - The Hat Makes the Man - 1920
Cut and paste paper, pencil, ink, and watercolor on paper.

Men's Hats similar to the ones pictured here can be seen on our site.


Rubens - The Coronation of Marie - 1625
Detail from "The Coronation of Marie", Paris, 1625 (approx.)

For all of human existence, headwear has represented power and status. In this detail from Rubens' The Coronation of Marie we see where Marie, in order to increase her power, demanded that Henry allow her a seperate coronation. From our "hatcentric" point of view, we are impressed by the profound significance this moment holds - when a crown is simply placed on a head and the whole political world changes.

Fancy Dress Hats similar to the ones pictured here can be seen on our site.