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University of Michigan Museum of Art Debuts Major International Loan Exhibition “The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850–1874” on October 10

The Sea at Le Havre

Claude Monet
The Sea at Le Havre, 1868
Oil on canvas, 23 5/8 x 32 1/8 in. (60 x 81.6 cm)
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (Purchase 53.22)

Ann Arbor, Mich—The University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) is pleased to announce 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.

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 exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated book with essays by internationally recognized scholars: Sylvie Aubenas, Head, Department of Prints and Photographs at the Bibliothèque nationale de France; Dominique de Font-Réaulx, Curator, Musée du Louvre; Stephen Bann, Bristol University; Dean MacCannell, University of California at Davis; and UMMA’s Senior Curator of Western Art, Carole McNamara.


A varied slate of programming designed to accompany and interpret the exhibition includes a series of musical performances featuring the faculty and students of the University of Michigan’s renowned School of Music, Theatre, and Dance; major lectures by Carole McNamara, Stephen Bann, and Jane Fulcher, UM musicology professor; and drop-in seascape painting workshops for families. For more details, visit UMMA’s website at


This exhibition is made possible in part by the Florence Gould Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the University of Michigan Health System, Office of the Provost, Office of the Vice President for Research, School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the Center for European Studies-European Union Center, and Department of History of Art, Masco Corporation, Furthermore: a program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund, the University of Michigan Credit Union, and the family of Dr. Raymond F. Cunningham in his memory. “The Lens of Impressionism” would not have been possible without the generosity and cooperation of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) and features exceptional loans from the BnF and the Musée d'Orsay.

Media contact

Stephanie Rieke Miller, or 734.647.0524.
A selection of low-resolution press images may be viewed at

The press preview will be held Friday, October 9. Please contact for details and to RSVP.


In March 2009 the University of Michigan Museum of Art (UMMA) opened a landmark 53,000-square-foot expansion, named the Maxine and Stuart Frankel and the Frankel Family Wing for its lead benefactors, and a major restoration of its historic, 41,000-square-foot home, Alumni Memorial Hall. Designed by principal architect Brad Cloepfil and his team at Allied Works Architecture, the $41.9 million transformation not only more than doubled the space available for collections display, temporary exhibitions, programs and educational exploration, but also fulfilled the Museum’s mission to offer a meeting place for the arts, bridging visual art and contemporary culture, scholarship and accessibility, tradition and innovation. The Museum’s near universal collections of more than 18,000 works of art span Western, Asian, and African traditions.