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Ruth Weisberg: Guido Cagnacci and the Resonant Image Opens
Expectation, 2007, Ruth Weisberg, American, b. 1942, Monotype, 15 3/4 x 23 1/2 inches, Courtesy of Ruth Weisberg.

PASADENA, CA.- The Norton Simon Museum presents Ruth Weisberg: Guido Cagnacci and the Resonant Image, an exhibition featuring Los Angeles artist Ruth Weisberg’s new series inspired by Guido Cagnacci’s powerful Martha Rebuking Mary for Her Vanity (after 1660), one of the Norton Simon Museum’s most important Baroque paintings. This exhibition features more than 20 new works by Weisberg in which she explores Cagnacci’s themes of transcendence, spiritual yearning, judgment and empathy.

“I am interested in emulating the art of other epochs with which I feel an affinity, and without apology,” says Ruth Weisberg. Weisberg’s appreciation for the history of art is a particularly intimate one, as seen through the lens of her own experience as a painter-printmaker. Implicit in Weisberg’s work is the assertion that contemporary art is not separable from the art of earlier periods. She says: “Art history becomes part of the imaginative life of the artist; we are in what I call a ‘dialogue’ with the past.”

Weisberg’s dialogue with Cagnacci’s masterpiece began in 2006. Contemplating this painting, Weisberg created a series of more than 20 paintings, monumental-size drawings and monotypes. Cagnacci’s ambitious pictorial narrative weaves together a number of emotive themes, including repentance, anger and the triumph of virtue over vice—all of which were topical subjects during the Catholic Reformation of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Weisberg explores and transforms these themes through the tradition of figurative art and the personal arena of memory and relationships. Indeed, she depicts herself and her family members as Cagnacci’s characters. In so doing, the artist reconfigures the emotional power of a specific reference by modifying it through her own beliefs and experiences.

Ruth Weisberg: Guido Cagnacci and the Resonant Image is organized by Gloria Williams Sander, Curator, Norton Simon Museum. A series of special programs accompanies the exhibition, including a lecture by Ruth Weisberg, a three-part adult education course on Baroque and neo-Baroque art, exhibition tours, a workshop for teens led by Ruth Weisberg, and a lecture on the interactions between painting and theater in the age of the Baroque by Michael Zampelli, S.J., a specialist in the Italian commedia dell’arte and a professor at Santa Clara University. Father Zampelli’s lecture is accompanied by theatrical reenactments of portions of La Maddalena, lasciva e penitente by Giovan Battista Andreini, one of the most important Italian dramatists of the 17th century. On view concurrently to Ruth Weisberg is Under the Influence: Art-Inspired Art, a complementary exhibition that explores the ways in which artists have been influenced by and responded to the works of others. More than 45 artworks from the Norton Simon collections are featured in the exhibition.

About Guido Cagnacci and Martha Rebuking Mary for Her Vanity - Guido Cagnacci (1601–1663), a native of Rimini, Italy, received his early training in Bologna. Though he moved among cities during his early career his style was deeply rooted in the Bolognese tradition established by GuidoReni and Giovanni Francesco Barbieri (Guercino). In this work, Cagnacci has composed an unusual, even melodramatic allegory of the triumph of virtue over vice. Mary Magdalene, the penitent sinner, has cast aside her jewels and worldly possessions in response to her sister Martha’s admonitions. Behind them, a triumphant angel banishes a devil, echoing the human drama, and two of Mary’s handmaidens tearfully leave the scene. The painter’s ability to present complex, didactic themes in such an appealing and sensuous manner was much appreciated during his time Cagnacci very likely painted this work during his service at the Austrian court in Vienna for his patron LeopoIt was later transferred to the Gonzaga court in Mantua, which maintained strong relations with Vienna. The painting was acquired by the Norton Simon Art Foundation in 1982.

About Ruth Weisberg Ruth Weisberg (b. 1942) is the Dean of the University of Southern California’s Gayle Garner Roski School of Fine Arts. She works primarily in painting, drawing and large-scale installations. She has received numerous honors, including a Doctor of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College in 2001, the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teaching of Art Award in 1999 and a Senior Research Fulbright Fellowship to Italy in 1992. In 2007 her work was featured in a retrospective organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Other recent solo exhibitions were organized at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, San Marino; the Frye Art Museum, Seattle; Jack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles; and Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts. Born and raised in Chicago, Weisberg received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Michigan, and a Laurea in painting and printmaking from the Accademia di Belle Arti in Perugia, Italy.

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