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Social media influencer Holly Pan takes a fashion-forward spin through National Gallery spaces that remind her of spring.

We’ve made it. Winter is officially over; we’ve stepped into spring. The season calls for a fresh start, new beginnings. But maybe you’re still feeling the heavy toll of winter. How do you revive your spirit?

We invited fashion social media creator Holly Pan to connect with the colors, forms, and feelings of our paintings and spaces.


The Shape of a Flower

My red skirt and blouse echo the red flowers seen in Jan van Huysum’s painting. Photograph by Mynor Ventura in West Building Main Floor gallery 50.

Against a dark background, an abundant, colorful arrangement of flowers and fruit fills this vertical still life painting. Set on a stone ledge, a barely visible terracotta vase contains the overflowing bouquet of flowers and greenery. Carnations, tulips, peonies, roses, tuberoses, hops, and other flowers create swirling, circular patterns that sweep across the panel. A delicate stalk of wheat and a few long, thin stems create bright, sinuous lines that span the composition. Peaches and green and purple grapes are piled on the ledge to our right, and an orange butterfly perches below. Barely noticeable, small, pale blue, yellow, white, and orange butterflies hover around the arrangement, while small insects and flies crawl on a few of the flowers and pieces of fruit. Drops of water reflect the light on some of the greenery, fruit, and tulip petals. The flowers are strongly lit across the face of the arrangement, which creates deep shadows to the sides and back.

Jan van Huysum, Still Life with Flowers and Fruit, c. 1715, oil on panel, Patrons' Permanent Fund and Gift of Philip and Lizanne Cunningham, 1996.80.1

Inspiration doesn’t come to me in just one way. It can be the colors of a painting, the pose of a subject, or even just the feeling of a work.

I was drawn to the rich red tones of several the flowers in Jan van Huysum’s Still Life with Flowers and Fruit. It wasn’t only the hue that attracted me but also the shape of the blooms. My voluminous skirt and top mimic that form. When you stack balloon shapes together, you create the look of an opening tulip. I made myself into a life-size flower.

My black belt and shoes connect to the painting’s dark background and allow the ruby red to stand out. Details like the giant pearl purse and big beaded necklace echo the adornment in nearby Dutch portraits. For example, Rembrandt van Rijn’s Portrait of a Lady with an Ostrich-Feather Fan hangs in the neighboring gallery.


The Airiness of a Cloud

My tulle skirt makes me feel like i'm standing on the clouds of Fragonard's paintings. Photograph by Mynor Ventura in West Building Main Floor gallery 55.

From a distance, we look down onto and across a lush park filled with elegantly dressed, light-skinned adults and children gathered in small groups as one woman swings from tall trees in this vertical painting. The color palette is dominated by celery and avocado green and soft straw yellow. An aquamarine-blue sky with towering white and ash-gray clouds fills the upper three-quarters of this painting. On our left, soaring trees reach two-thirds of the way up the composition. Two walls mark an entrance to the garden in the lower left. Stone fountains carved into the shape of lions sit on top of the walls with streams of water pouring from their mouths to urns below. People gather next to the entrance and further down a slope to our right. They relax together in pairs except for one group, which has two women and two children. The women’s long dresses have ruffled sleeves that come to their elbows, and the men wear long jackets and knee-length britches over stockings. A woman wearing a butter-yellow and rose-pink ball gown sits on a swing with ropes tied back into the trees to our left. She swings out diagonally high above the other people. Below the woman, some of the people watch and point to her as she swings. To our right, a woman in a crimson-red and yellow gown sits on a boxy, stone structure and looks through a telescope while a man leaning onto the box, wearing a brown coat, looks on. A woman in a strawberry-red dress and a man in a teal-blue jacket play with a small white dog at the edge of the pool in front of the entrance while another woman and man sit and stand between the entrance walls. In the distance to our right, trees and shrubs grow in front of pewter-gray hills under the lavender-purple horizon.

Jean Honoré Fragonard, The Swing, c. 1775/1780, oil on canvas, Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1961.9.17

In Jean Honoré Fragonard’s massive pair of paintings, The Swing and Blindman’s Bluff, my eye gravitates toward the sky and landscape that dominate the compositions. I wanted to create an outfit that captured that airiness. With a trench coat layered over an ethereal tulle skirt, it’s like I’m standing on clouds.

I chose the coat to pick up the brown tones of the trees and roses and pinks of the partygoers’ dresses. My coat stands out in the pastel-hued French gallery, just like their outfits contrast with their green surroundings.

The Lush Abundance of Spring

The tropical flowers in the West Building's Rotunda prompted me to look for a dress that coordinated with their colors and unusual forms. Photograph by Mynor Ventura

If you want to feel revitalized, the National Gallery’s green spaces and floral displays are the perfect place. They’re works of art! The tropical flowers I recently saw in the West Building Rotunda prompted me to look for a coordinated dress. The vibrant fuchsia shade pulled from the colors of the blooms, while its cascading frills evoked their petals.

I wouldn’t usually wear such a formal dress to a museum. But the lush abundance of the display, and the start of spring, called for something celebratory.


The Playfulness of a Palette

The paintings inspired our photographer Mynor and I to create a blurred image that evoked the impressionist technique. Photograph by Mynor Ventura

A woman stands on a sun-dappled path, which runs past a bank of blooming flowers and back to a cottage in this vertical painting. Close to us, the bush fills the lower right quadrant of the composition, where coral-pink and golden yellow dahlia blossoms flare like fireworks from among deep, spruce-green foliage. Sunlight from our left casts long violet-purple and steel-blue shadows across the white path, which runs parallel to the left edge of the canvas alongside a strip of trimmed lawn. In the near distance, the woman looks down at something in her hands at her chest so the brim of her hat angles down. She wears a pale blue jacket or blouse and a long, azure-blue skirt. A small black dog with wiry fur stands near the woman and looks at us. A greenhouse with a rounded, mint-green roof sits lengthwise on our right. Several windows are tipped open on the bottom half of the structure. Hedges of white, laurel-green, and peacock-blue flowers and bushes grow between the woman and the greenhouse. The house at the end of the path has a terracotta-orange roof, pale peach stucco walls, and dark orange shutters. Dense canopies of trees nestle each side of the house, and above, puffs of white clouds float against a watery, turquoise-blue sky. The artist signed and dated the painting in green in the lower left, “G. Caillebotte, 1893.”

Gustave Caillebotte, Dahlias, Garden at Petit Gennevilliers, 1893, oil on canvas, Gift of the Scharffenberger Family, 2016.48.1

The impressionist and post-impressionist French galleries are some of my favorite spaces in the museum. The paintings make me feel childlike playfulness and joy.

My hot pink tweed jacket and shorts draw on those emotions. I took inspiration from 19th-century children’s fashions in paintings like Mary Cassatt’s Eddy Cassatt (Edward Buchanan Cassatt). And I completed the look with a lace collar and high socks, similar to little Eddy’s.

For the photos, I wanted to do a modern spin on the impressionist aesthetic. The blur reminds me of Gustave Caillebotte’s brushstrokes in Dahlias, Garden at Petit Gennevilliers. As I stride past the painting, I’m in soft focus—just like the woman standing in the garden in the canvas behind me.

I stop by these galleries whenever I visit the museum to see paintings by Vincent van Gogh. They remind me of the first time I came to the National Gallery in 1998 for a special exhibition of the Dutch artist’s works. It was my first time at any art museum! Van Gogh’s paintings left an impression and led me to expressing creativity through fashion.

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Holly Pan

Digital fashion creator, @hollyhpan on Instagram


March 19, 2024