Eighteenth Century French Neoclassical Painter and Cubism Pioneer Picasso Come Face to Face at the Norton Simon in Pasadena

Published on Nov 15, 2022

Picasso Ingres: Face to Face,” an exhibition that brings together two extraordinary, interrelated paintings for the first time – Pablo Picasso’s “Woman with a Book (1932)” and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’s “Madame Moitessier (1856)” – is on view now at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena.

A partnership between the Norton Simon Museum and the National Gallery in London, the exhibition explores Picasso’s long-standing fascination with French neoclassical painter Ingres. 

The exhibition opened in October and is on view up to January 30, 2023.

It came to Pasadena following its presentation at the National Gallery from Jun. 3 to Oct. 9 this year.

“There’s no record of how, 75+ years apart, the two models felt about their century’s major painters’ portrayal of them. But their reunion, in our times, gives 21st century viewers a sense of the styles, talents and artistic values of art-makers whose work became influential and permanent,” reported NPR about the Norton Simon exhibition. 

“Commissioned in 1844, “Madame Moitessier” is one of Ingres’s most ambitious and challenging works. It depicts Marie-Clotilde-Inès Moitessier, the wife of a wealthy merchant, resplendent in an armchair and surrounded by the luxurious trappings of her grand salon,” according to the Norton Simon Museum. 

“Though Ingres avoided portraiture at this stage in his career, he was purportedly convinced to paint Inès Moitessier after being “struck by her beauty” in person. Finally completed in 1856, “Madame Moitessier” was immediately recognized as one of Ingres’s greatest achievements, a complex and captivating likeness that balances the sitter’s imperious pose with an illogically angled reflection in the mirror behind her that appears to defy the rules of optics altogether.”

“Ingres’s propensity to bend naturalistic representation appealed to many modernists, most notably Picasso, who looked to him for inspiration throughout the first three decades of his career. Though he may have known “Madame Moitessier” in reproduction, Picasso saw the painting in person for the first time at a major retrospective dedicated to the French artist in 1921, and he never forgot it.”

“Eleven years later, while engrossed in a series of works that depict his young lover, Marie-Thérèse Walter, Picasso painted “Woman with a Book,” one of the most direct homages to Ingres that he had made to date” 

The National Gallery, London, acquired “Madame Moitessier” in March of 1936, coincidentally the very same month that “Woman with a Book” was first exhibited in Paris. It joined the Simon collections in 1960. 

Now, 101 years after Picasso’s initial encounter with Ingres’ painting, audiences will at last have the opportunity to view these two masterpieces side by side. The exhibition also marks the first time “Madame Moitessier” has traveled to the West Coast, and more than 20 years since its last visit to the United States, according to the museum. 

Chief Curator Emily Talbot is overseeing its presentation at the Norton Simon Museum’s 19th-century art wing till January 30, 2023. 

For more information, visit www.nortonsimon.org/about/press/news-archive-2022/picasso-ingres-face-to-face

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