Thalassa, Thalassa! The Imagery of the Sea

Thalassa, Thalassa!
The Imagery of the Sea


This show challenges us with a singular landscape, the sea, in works of art from the 19th century to the present. What role have artists played in fashioning its imagery? How do they express our desire to preserve its mysteries and beauties?

At the point where art history and the history of science and culture meet, the exhibition makes plain how artists have depicted or anticipated the series of upheavals that have redefined our perception of the sea, that immense territory that extends from the shore to the watery depths. At a time when we are increasingly conscious of the role we humans are playing in undermining ecosystems, and maritime borders are causing a number of conflicts, the past sheds light on the present.

The layout of the show is meant to suggest a narrative, from Romanticism to realism, from Symbolism and Surrealism to contemporary art. Visitors will discover that their emotional and aesthetic relationship to the natural world is anchored in a history of images and in a series of formal inventions. On the first and second floors of the museum, three themes are examined in turn, first in the past and then in the present, i.e., shores, depths, and finally abysses.

The show features works by a wealth of artists, including Louis Ducros, Eugen von Ransonnet-Villez, Arnold Böcklin, François Bocion, Ary Renan, Bolesław Biegas, Alphonse Osbert, Jean-Francis Auburtin, Alexandre Séon, Georges Clairin, Albert Marquet, René-Xavier Prinet, Félix Vallotton, Maurice Pillard – Verneuil, Jean Painlevé, Pierre Boucher, Germaine Martin, Man Ray, Max Ernst, Pascal-Désir Maisonneuve, Lubaina Himid, Caroline Bachmann – Stefan Banz, François Burland, Sandrine Pelletier, Margaret and Christine Wertheim, and Yael Bartana.

This event has been made possible by many generous loans from private collections and public institutions, in Europe (Ajaccio’s Palais Fesch; Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts; Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, Petit Palais, and Musée de la Vie romantique; Vienna’s Naturhistorisches Museum Wien; and Baden-Baden’s Museum Frieder Burda), and in Switzerland (Geneva’s Ariana and Musée d’art et d’histoire, Lausanne’s Musée cantonal vaudois de zoologie, Musée historique, and Collection de l’Art brut; the Kunst Museum Winterthur; and Kunstmuseum St. Gallen).

Curators of the exhibition: Danielle Chaperon, Professor of French Literature, University of Lausanne, and Catherine Lepdor, Chief Curator, MCBA

Publication: to coincide with the exhibition, a richly illustrated publication has been published by Éditions Octopus, edited by Danielle Chaperon and Catherine Lepdor, 2024, 192 pp.

Public opening

Thursday 3 October 2024, from 6.00 pm


With the support of