PASADENA, CALIF.- The Norton Simon Museum
has begun the presentation of Picasso Ingres: Face to Face, an exhibition that brings together two extraordinary, interrelated paintings for the first time: Pablo Picassos Woman with a Book (1932) and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingress Madame Moitessier (1856). A partnership between the Norton Simon Museum and the National Gallery, London, this exhibition explores Picassos long-standing fascination with Ingres and the generative process that resulted from his confrontation with a celebrated work of art. It is on view at the Norton Simon Museum through January 30, 2023, following its presentation at the National Gallery from June 3 to October 9, 2022.
Commissioned in 1844, Madame Moitessier is one of Ingress 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. Though Ingres avoided portraiture at this stage in his career (preferring the intellectual challenge of history painting), 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 Ingress greatest achievements, a complex and captivating likeness that balances the sitters imperious pose with an illogically angled reflection in the mirror behind her that appears to defy the rules of optics altogether.
Ingress 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 painting depicts Walter reprising Moitessiers iconic pose, but Picasso transformed and amplified his source, brightening and abstracting the palette and heightening the sitters eroticism. Even Moitessiers famously incongruent reflection gains an extra dimension here, as the androgynous profile in the gold-framed mirror alludes to Walter and to the artist himselfa ghostly voyeur on the scene.
Madame Moitessier was acquired by the National Gallery, London, 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 Picassos initial encounter with Madame Moitessier, 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 twenty years since its last visit to the United States.
Picasso Ingres: Face to Face is a collaboration between the Norton Simon Museum and the National Gallery, London. it is on view in the Museums 19th-century art through January 30, 2023.