Emma Lewis Coleman: Maine
May 23 through October 17, 2015

Emma Lewis Coleman (1853–1942) was born in Boston to wealthy parents, and enjoyed a life defined by artistic and intellectual pursuits. An accomplished historian, writer, and photographer, she divided her time between Massachusetts and Maine, where she spent summers in a house on Kittery Point. She took up photography in the late 1870s, following several years of study and travel in Europe. Coleman’s decidedly picturesque photographs are informed by both the pastoral traditions of the European Barbizon painters, and the Colonial Revival movement in the United States. Alarmed by the shifting American landscape of the late 19th century, Coleman trained her camera on rural New England, hoping to capture a style of life she felt was rapidly disappearing. Her photographs of York and its environs range from theatrical—yet lyrical—depictions of local folk to important documentary images of historic architecture and landscapes.


The exhibition at the Museums of Old York, which has one of the largest collections of Coleman’s vintage prints, takes a fresh look at her images by placing them in the context of her life and times. The exhibition includes approximately 40 of Coleman’s photographs made in Maine in the 1880s, along with various documentary materials.