Three Famous Works of Art Now in Los Angeles From Paris
Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum brings the masters to (or back to) America with their current exhibition Tete-a-tete. On exhibit through June 22, the show includes three masterpieces from Paris’ Musee d’Orsay. Highlighting the American James Abbott McNeill Whistler along with Paul Cezanne’s Card Players and Edouard Manet’s portrait of Emile Zola.
Whistler’s famed Arrangement in Grey and Black 1, also known as Portrait of the Artist’s Mother, is one of the most well-known and iconic pieces of American art. Although the artist was born in the U.S., he lived much of his life overseas. Eventually landing in Paris, Whistler spent his formative years as an artist studying European painters such as Courbet and Delacroix. Prior to being hung at the Musee d’Orsay, Whistler’s Arrangement in Grey and Black 1 was the first American painting to make its way to the Louvre, becoming part of their collection in 1825. The last time this particular piece was shown in the Los Angeles area was in 1933.
Cezanne’s Card Players is part of a series, likely the first one. The subjects – men engaged in a card game – were supposedly peasants who the artist saw at his family’s property in Jas de Bouffan. The version housed at the Musee d’Orsay (and currently on display at the Norton Simon Museum) is sparse in composition, featuring the two men as central figures.
The third work on view is Manet’s portrait of Cezanne’s close friend and writer Emile Zola. Manet offered the portrait as a way to thank Zola for his 1867 article defending his art. The visual thank you note is set with a backdrop that is packed with objects and items characteristic of the subject’s likes. These include the scandal-causing Olympia (which Zola also considered to be one of Manet’s finest pieces) and an engraving after Velázquez.
Like the Whistler, the Cezanne and Manet works were also both housed at the Louvre before moving to the Musee d’Orsay.
All three paintings will be on view at the Norton Simon Museum’s 19th century wing. The temporary exhibit is alongside the museum’s permanent collection of works by Manet and Cezanne (along with other notable painters of their time).