Dallas Exhibit Looks at Dialogue between Photographers and Impressionist Painters

Claude Monet's "Hotel des Roches Noires, Trouville, 1870

An exhibit that closed January 3 at the University of Michigan Museum of Art Beginning will move to the Dallas Museum of Art for a  February 21 opening. The landmark exhibition exploring the influential and profound relationship between photographers and painters who lived and worked along the Normandy coast in France during the mid-19th century. The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874 reveals how the convergence of social, technological and commercial forces within the region affected artistic production and dramatically transformed the course of photography, impressionism and modern painting. The exhibition will feature some 100 works, including vintage prints, paintings, pastels and watercolors, by artists and photographers including Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Gustave Le Gray, and Claude Monet.

On view through May 23, 2010, The Lens of Impressionism will be complemented by the presentation of Coastlines: Images of Land and Sea, a special exhibition drawn from the Museum’s collections opening in April that will explore how coastal landscapes have been portrayed by artists throughout the past century. The Lens of Impressionism has been organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The Dallas presentation, which marks the final stop of this major exhibition, will feature important loans and a new section exploring early photographic techniques and technology.

“The Lens of Impressionism provides a wonderful opportunity to connect visitors with masterpieces by some of the greatest impressionist artists, including Monet and Degas, and also to offer insight and exposure to their colleagues, the pioneers of the art of photography,” said Bonnie Pitman, The Eugene McDermott Director of the Dallas Museum of Art. “The presentation at the DMA is enhanced by our forthcoming exhibition Coastlines, which will further explore the theme, as well as in our own collection of impressionist works from the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, which this year celebrates its 25th year as part of the DMA.”

The exhibition 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 by pioneering photographers, such as Gustave Le Gray and Henri Le Secq. Inspired by the scenic Normandy coast of France, these works include representations of beach scenes, seascapes, fishing villages, resorts and the region’s pastoral beauty. Archival materials related to early tourism will also be included in the exhibition to provide 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 Lens of Impressionism presents new insight into and scholarship on the response of impressionist painters to early photography within the context of a single geographic locale,” said Heather MacDonald, The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art and the coordinating curator for the exhibition. “The work that was developed in the second half of the 19th century in the Normandy coast—a region that was intensely explored and celebrated by artists during this time—tells a revealing story about the cross-pollination of ideas between the emerging impressionist art movement and the new field of photography.”

Exclusive to the Dallas presentation is a special section that illustrates the technology and techniques of early photography through works from the Dallas Museum of Art’s collections as well as loans from the Amon Carter Museum.

After viewing The Lens of Impressionism, visitors are encouraged to explore the Museum’s Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, which is acclaimed for its impressionist and post-impressionist works by such artists as Bonnard, Cézanne, Gauguin, Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and van Gogh. Encompassing more than 1,400 works, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper and decorative arts objects, the collection is displayed at the DMA in a re-creation of the couple’s Riviera home, Villa La Pausa. This spectacular bequest, which was presented to the Museum 25 years ago, transformed the DMA’s collection of late 19th-century French art and founded the institution’s collection in European decorative arts.

Special audio tours for The Lens of Impression exhibition and the Reves Collection will highlight works in the exhibition along with select masterpieces from the Reves Collection. Additional background information and material on the exhibition and from the Reves Collection can also be accessed by visitors on Wi-Fi enabled smartphones and media players.

The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874 is organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art. The Dallas presentation marks the second and final stop on the exhibition tour, and is curated by Heather MacDonald, The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.

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