Dialectical images, imaginary museums, virtual museums

Dialectical images, imaginary museums, virtual museums

This project aims to understand how technical reproducibility transforms both the works of art and the museums that conserve and display them. In fact, one can create a “personal” virtual museum containing engravings, photographs, and films. Today, the digital revolution is leading a third revolution of the image and it provides virtual museums with unlimited expansion, i.e., “museums without walls.” Borrowed from Walter Benjamin, the concept of “dialectical images” embraces all of its meanings: past and present comingle as much within the images as they are rapidly reproduced, thus accessible. In order to approach this phenomenon, a triple paradigm has been chosen: “dialectical images” in connection with imaginary museums updated in the format of virtual museums. The phenomenon will be studied according to different corpuses, which, by the originality of their format, articulate these three aspects: postcards with their paradoxical relationship to monumentality, artists’ libraries, art historians’ photographs and illustrations, illustrations in sales catalogs, posters, images of cathedrals, and Artists’ Web Projects.

Responsables du projet

Ségolène LE MEN , HAR

Claire BARBILLON ,  Coordinator of the research team based in Ecole du Louvre , Université de Poitiers, CRIHAM

Partenaires au sein du labex

  • History of Arts and Representations (HAR) - EA 4414
  • Library of Contemporary International Documentation (BDIC)
  • French National Library (BnF)

Autres partenaires associés

National Institute of Art History (INHA), France

Rouen Museum

Rodin Museum

École du Louvre

Collection France Debuisson

Department of art history and film studies, University of Montreal

Department of history, archeology, geography, arts, and performing arts, University of Florence

Department of art history, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich

Department of history, Cambridge University

Durée du projet

4 years



Programme of the symposium "Scenes of the Impressionist Life:
 A Musée imaginaire" - September 7&8, 2016
programme_colloque_musimaginaire_impressionnistes-1.pdf ( pdf - 776.35 Ko )

Call for papers - Early career researchers workshop - "The transfigured cathedral"
appel_a_communication_-_atelier_jeunes_chercheurs.pdf ( pdf - 102.65 Ko )

Call for papers "The transfigured cathedral" (German version only)
appel_a_communications.pdf ( pdf - 79.19 Ko )

Programme of the symposium "The transfigured cathedral"
programme_colloque.pdf ( pdf - 3.84 Mo )

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Artists’ Libraries: A Resource for Art History

Perspective, 2016/2

ISBN:  9782917902329
URL / DOI:  DOI of the journal
Editeur:  Institut national d'histoire de l'art (INHA)

Mots clés

library, artist's library, artists, art history, written sources, resources, archives, book, reading, genetics, circulation, network, imaginary picture gallery


Current research and work on artists’ libraries, which are relatively recent and based on the corpus, are inspired by the history of books and reading, strengthened by an interest in the archives as elements of a work of art, and an interest arising from genetic analysis and recognition of the place of artists in intellectual life. Artists’ libraries, when documented and sometimes preserved, not only represent a source, but can also become a resource facilitating an approach to the art works’ creation, and to the study of the circulation of ideas, concepts, poetics and images within artistic groups and circles. One of the issues addressed in this article is the access they offer to the artists’ imaginary museums, shared with contemporary readers of the same illustrated works of artistic literature. Finally, the content of these volumes, their dedications, and annotations specify the modalities of cultural appropriation, testify to the ways of reading, and highlight the relational networks of their owners.

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Artists’ Libraries through the Prism of Digital Humanities: Monet’s Library


ISBN:  1777-7852
URL / DOI:  DOI of the journal
Editeur:  Institut national d'histoire de l'art (INHA)

Mots clés

artist's library, artists, digitization, digital library, sources, digital resource, book, reading, archives, research, digital humanities


The project Artists’ Libraries – part of the research program “Pasts in the Present” – aims to provide researchers and the general public not only with lists of works that constitute or constituted artists’ libraries in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, but also their dematerialized version. In order to manage the large amount of data, to ensure wide dissemination, and to be able to cross-reference searches around a library, a writer, or a book, the choice to digitize has been made. This article sets out to describe this approach through an extensive bibliography on the subject and by explaining the different stages and the thinking, theoretical as well as practical, that are given rise by such a project.

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Félicie de MAUPÉOU

Titre:  Dr. in History of Art
Fonction:  Research engineer for the project "Dialectical images, imaginary museums, virtual museums"  
Institution:  Histoire des Arts et des Représentations, EA 4414 , Université Paris Nanterre

Participe au projet:  Dialectical images, imaginary museums, virtual museums

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Titre:  Doctor (History of contemporary art)
Fonction:  Chargée de programmation et des enseignements M2 et 3e cycle, École du Louvre
Institution:  École du Louvre , Histoire des Arts et des Représentations, EA 4414

Participe au projet:  Dialectical images, imaginary museums, virtual museums

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Ségolène LE MEN

Titre:  Professor (Art History)
Institution:  HAR , University Paris Nanterre

Co-responsable du projet:  Dialectical images, imaginary museums, virtual museums , History of modern laughter (19th – 21st centuries): comic traditions and multimedia culture


Ségolène Le Men is Professor of Contemporary Art History, Paris Nanterre, Senior Member of the Institut universitaire de France. She has taken part to various exhibitions (among which Jules Chéret Pionier der Plakatkunst/Pioneer of Poster Art (dir. Michael Bührs with Réjane Bargiel and Martin F. Le Coultre), Munich, Museum Villa Stuck et Stuttgart, Arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2011), and written extensively about nineteenth Century French Art (painting, graphic arts, caricature): Courbet, New York, Abbeville Press, 2008; Daumier et la caricature, Paris, Citadelles & Mazenod, 2008; Monet, Citadelles & Mazenod, 2010); La bibliothèque de Monet (dir.), Citadelles & Mazenod, 2013

Héloïse et Abélard, un mythe romantique

Editeur:  Hazan
ISBN:  9782754107617

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Titre:  Professor of History of contemporary art
Fonction:   Coordinator of the research team based in Ecole du Louvre
Institution:  Université de Poitiers, CRIHAM , Histoire des Arts et des Représentations, EA 4414

Co-responsable du projet:  Dialectical images, imaginary museums, virtual museums