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Photos imitate painting - and vice versa

Gustave Le Gray's photo of ships at anchor off the coast taken in the 1850s influenced how painters like Edouard Manet painted similar scenes. The exciting new photographic technology stimulated a new era in fine art, expressed beautifully in the UM Art Museum's landmark exhibit "The Lens of Impressionism," now on display.

ANN ARBOR – The invention of photography in the mid-19th century offered a completely new way to view the world and the people in it. This new, wondrous technology intrigued, confused, threatened and delighted the visual artists of the day who suddenly could see the world through a new lens. It brought into question what was real, what was an impression, what was held in time and what the world actually looks like.
All these questions are brought to life in the magnificent exhibition "The Lens of Impressionism," now on display at the University of Michigan Museum of Art.
The exhibit, 10 years in the making, includes rare photographs that clearly influenced the painting style of such masters as Monet, Courbet, Manet and many other painters who vacationed and worked on the Normandy coast of France from 1850 to 1874.
Photographers of the day were playing with the new technology too, experimenting with double exposure, clipping two or more images together and making other manipulations – all in a time way before Photoshop. Were the photographers trying to replicate what the painters were able to capture with their brushes? Were the painters challenged to create paintings that went beyond the mere factual lines of reality that the photographers could reduce to paper? Or were the two intertwined, influencing and challenging each other to find new ways of expressing the natural, dramatic beauty of the Normandy coast?
Anyone with a passion for artwork, whether painted or photographed, will be intrigued with this exciting exhibit. The museum is open to the public most days and is always free. For more information, visit http://www.umma.umich.edu.



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