Manet: Three Paintings from the Norton Simon Museum

Manet: Three Paintings from the Norton Simon Museum


(music) Norton Simon, founder of the museum that bears his name in
Pasadena, California, began collecting art in
1954 and quickly established one of the nation’s
greatest art collections. Ranging from early Italian
gold-ground painting to post-war art, the Norton
Simon’s deepest holdings are in nineteenth-century French painting. The museum’s intimate
scale and beautiful garden echo the Frick. And Simon himself cited
The Frick Collection as a model for both the
quality of works he purchased and an ideal contemplative atmosphere. Simon bought his first
painting by Manet in 1957, a portrait of the artist’s wife. Just two years later, Simon added an early still life
by Manet to his collection. This work hung prominently just below Manet’s infamous, celebrated
‘Luncheon on the Grass’ in the retrospective of
Manet’s work held in 1884, a year after the artist’s death. By the time Simon
acquired ‘The Ragpicker,’ he had clearly set his sights
on leaving a public legacy. This painting is the most monumental and historically important of the three. It is the last in a series
of beggar-philosophers that Manet began with
‘The Absinthe Drinker,’ one of his first mature works, and then retroactively
sold under the group title ‘4 Philosophers’ to the art
dealers Durand-Ruel, in 1872. In anticipation for the
presentation of these paintings at the Frick, all three
Manets from the Norton Simon were cleaned by conservators
at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The most dramatic transformation
was to ‘Madame Manet.’ After careful removal of
an old, yellowed varnish, the painting has regained
its original luminosity and range of greys, blacks, and whites to recall the portraits of Frans Hals found in the Frick’s nearby West Gallery. Following treatment at the Getty, Manet’s still life attained
a greater sense of depth and this painting’s already
spectacular condition- which was never relined or abraded- shows the spectacular
dynamism of Manet’s brush with peaks and valleys
of paint frozen in time. For ‘The Ragpicker,’
technical analysis resulting from conservation joined archival evidence to suggest Manet may have
revisited this painting, reworking portions years
after he had sold it in 1872. At The Frick Collection,
these three paintings are on view in the Oval Room, nestled between the Old
Masters who were so beloved by both Manet and Norton Simon. We invite you to look
closely at these paintings while they are here in
New York and consider them as a platform for comparisons
across the collection. Their exhibition continues
through January 5, 2020. (music)

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