Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is currently exhibiting three rare collections, including three paintings by Édouard Manet (1832–1883) that depict “philosophers” dressed as beggars and that are being shown together for the first time in over 55 years.
Two of the Manet paintings, “Beggar with Oysters (Philosopher)” and “Beggar with a Duffle Coat (Philosopher),” both dated 1865 or 1867, are on loan from the Art Institute of Chicago, the result of a masterpiece exchange program between the two museums. They’re now on exhibit in Pasadena with Norton Simon’s own “Ragpicker,” which Manet painted between 1865 and 1870.
Manet painted these three “philosopher” works after traveling to Spain in 1865 to “seek the counsel of maestro (Diego) Velázquez,” as he wrote to a friend. Velázquez (1599-1660) worked on “Aesop” and “Mennipus” in 1638, depicting the ancient Greek storyteller and satirist as contemporary Spanish beggars, each man rendered in shabby clothes but with enough self-possession to confidently meet the viewer’s gaze.
After viewing Velazquez’s pieces, Manet wrote these were “astounding pieces” that were “alone worth the journey.” When he returned to Paris, Manet started working on his own “philosopher” paintings, as he sought to relate art’s historical tradition to contemporary life.
The installation is organized by Norton Simon Museum’s Chief Curator Emily Talbot, a specialist in 19th century French art.
“They’re very imposing when installed together on the same wall,” Talbot said in a Pasadena Weekly article. “Seeing them now in our galleries, I can see why. There’s such a collective power when you see these three works together. If they were installed alongside anything else, they would just blow them out of the water.”
Manet’s “Philosophers” are on view until the end of February 2022.
The two other current exhibitions are “Unseen Picasso,” a small exhibition featuring 16 exceptional prints made between the 1930s and 1960s that illustrate Pablo Picasso’s bold experiments in the graphic arts, on display up to January 10, 2022; and The Expressive Body: Memory, Devotion, Desire (1400-1750), an exhibition of more than 60 artworks that examines the ways in which the human form has provoked powerful responses, from the physiological to the mystical, on display up to March 7, 2022.
“Unseen Picasso” examines a select group of iconic and lesser-known prints of enduring subjects from the artist’s repertoire, including his muses and the nude. The exhibition looks at the singular characteristics that make these prints rare or unique and therefore are rarely seen. It also invites visitors to look closely at the characteristics in each impression that distinguish the Norton Simon print from others produced in the edition.
“Unseen Picasso” is organized by Curator Gloria Williams Sander.
“The Expressive Body” includes paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures from throughout Europe and Latin America, some of which have rarely been exhibited. The exhibition is organized around two major themes: “Love and Suffering” and “Accessing the Divine.” Within these sections are art objects that were created to be experienced in multisensory ways, including sculptures meant to be caressed, prints that were handled and even sacred images that were kissed, although that is not permitted today in a museum setting.
General admission to these exhibitions is $15 for adults and $12 for seniors. Members, students with ID, and patrons aged 18 and younger are admitted free.
To purchase tickets for each exhibition, and to learn more about Museum admission policies, visit www.nortonsimon.org/visit/