The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast Exhibition at the University of Michigan Museum of Art

The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) announces it will present a landmark exhibition of rare works of art and important new scholarship brought together to explore the provocative relationship between photography and painting along the Normandy coast in mid-19th-century France.

Organized by UMMA, “The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850–1874” will be on view in Ann Arbor October 10, 2009 through January 3, 2010 and will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art in 2010.

Claude Monet
Claude Monet, The Sea at Le Havre, 1868, Oil on canvas, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Purchase 53.22)

This exhibition advances a new argument for the origins of what was called “the new painting,” namely that a unique convergence of forces—social, artistic, technological, and commercial—along the Normandy coast of France dramatically transformed the course of photography and painting (as well as of the region itself). Within this framework, the invention of the camera and the development of early fine art photography in that particular setting will be seen as the specific catalysts that brought about a new approach to painting.

The project will showcase paintings, photographs, and drawings by some of the most treasured artists in the Western canon—Gustave Courbet, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas among them—as well as pioneering photographers such as Gustave Le Gray and Henri Le Secq. Inspired by the scenic Normandy coast of France, these works—including representations of beach scenes, seascapes, fishing villages, resorts, and the region’s pastoral beauty—will be brought together with archival materials related to early tourism and regional expressions of French nationalism from popular culture for an innovative examination of the impact of the then-new medium of photography on ideas of image making, the recording of passing time, the capacities of painting, and the rise of Impressionism itself.

The exhibition will include loans from private and public collections in both the United States and Europe, featuring exceptional loans from the Musée d’Orsay and a generous loan of outstanding photographs from the rich collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The new University of Michigan Museum of Art—a meeting place for the arts situated at the heart of a great university. With the addition of the 53,000 square foot Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing and the restoration of historic Alumni Memorial Hall, UMMA ushers in a new era, a reimagining of the university art museum as a new “town square” for the 21st century. With dramatic new galleries highlighting works drawn from the Museum’s collections of more than 18,000 artworks (representing over 150 years of collecting at the University) special exhibition spaces that soar with new life, “open storage” galleries, and a range of lively educational and event spaces.

Organized by University of Michigan Museum of Art the exhibition will travel to the Dallas Museum of Art.