Rare Event

Iconic artworks come face to face at Norton Simon 

By Bridgette M. Redman

History is being made at Pasadena’s Norton Simon Museum this month, as two masterworks — one that inspired the other — will come together for the first, and perhaps only, time in the United States.

Pablo Picasso had long been inspired by the work of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, particularly the portrait of Madame Moitessier, which the French artist completed in 1856 after spending 12 years creating it. 

While Picasso had only seen the work once as it was still in private hands, in 1932, he created his own painting that was inspired by it, “Woman with a Book.”

Now, in 2022, those works are being shown together as part of an exchange between Norton Simon, the owner of the Picasso, and London’s National Gallery, which houses the Ingres. “Picasso Ingres: Face to Face” opened in London in early June and will be there until October 9. It will move to Pasadena from October 21 to January 30.

The Norton Simon and National Gallery have had an ongoing exchange program, but this one represents something a little different, according to Emily Talbot, the Norton Simon museum’s chief curator.

“We had these two paintings that had this close relationship with each other, and we were both interested in showing them together,” Talbot says. 

“It made sense to do it as an exhibition with two venues. There was just such a rich story to tell about these two pictures about their relationship with each other and about the importance of one artist looking at another.”

The story was so rich that the two institutions jointly published a catalog exploring the relationship between the two works. 

The catalog includes articles by Talbot; Christopher Riopelle, the Neil Westreich Curator of Post-1800 Paintings at the National Gallery; and Susan L. Siegfried, the Denise Riley Collegiate Professor Emerita at the History of Art and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan. 

That National Gallery is the publisher, and Yale University Press is distributing it.

“It tells you a lot about the relationship between the two paintings,” Talbot says. “It’s full of historical information and has a timeline and really wonderful images.”

The 72-page catalog will be available in the gift shops of both museums.

Talbot says they are uninstalling one of the Norton Simon galleries in the 19th century wing to make room for this exhibition. They’ll install the two paintings side by side on the main sightline wall.

They’ll adopt a variation of the graphic design that the National Gallery created for its version of the exhibition, which lifts the profiles from the mirror reflections in both paintings and has them face off with each other. 

“We’re installing them alongside the entryway,” Talbot says. “You have this moment of looking at the paintings and then when you turn around to leave the gallery, you’ll see these two profiles extracted from the paintings looking at each other. I hope it’s a moment that people are encouraged to look back again at the paintings and think about the ways they’re speaking to each other.”

Talbot visited the London exhibition, where they have dedicated an entire gallery to this display, showing just the two pictures. 

She says they painted the gallery a deep purple and encourages guests to look at the relationships between the two pieces. 

The texts at the National Gallery focus on the two women in the paintings. Madame Moitessier was the wife of a wealthy merchant, and while Ingres was turning down portrait work at that time in favor of historical work, he was impressed by her beauty.

The woman in the Picasso painting was his lover at the time, Marie-Thérèse Walter. She was 17 when they became lovers — Picasso was 45 and living with his first wife. He and Walter share a child, Maya Widmaier-Picasso.

Ingres’ work was highly naturalistic, but he was known to inspire many modernists, including Picasso. Picasso’s “Woman with a Book” shows Walter in the iconic Moitessier pose, but he abstracted the palette and made the picture more erotic. The mirror reflection, which had appeared in several of Ingres’ works up to that point, was recreated in the Picasso, except it doesn’t reflect his lover; it shows an androgynous profile that is said to represent Picasso.

Because Picasso figures so heavily in the Norton Simon collection, it’s handling the exhibition differently than its British counterpart.

“We’re really using this moment to delve deeply into the history of our painting and the exciting moment to bring it together with the work that inspired it,” Talbot says. “We’re installing those two with a number of other works by Picasso from our collection. We’ll have a few works by Picasso from the 1920s and even afterward from 1965.”

Talbot says that showing the works together gives visitors the chance to deeply study their similarities and differences and the way the two works speak to each other. She gives the example of the gazes of the women.

“Madame Moitessier looks you right in the eye and she’s half smiling, kind of a Mona Lisa smile,” Talbot says. “There’s a moment of familiarity between you as the viewer and her.”

When Picasso reinterpreted the painting, he pivoted the face of the female figure, so she is looking past the viewer. 

“He gets at more this kind of internal state of thinking,” Talbot says. “She’s sort of withdrawn, and we’re not given access to what she might be thinking about. There’s that little bit of distance that he introduces. … There’s just a number of really wonderful, complicated, interesting, troubling dimensions to the way that relationships between viewer and sitter are set out and the ways that Picasso sort of plays with that and takes it in a different direction.”

Guests can immerse themselves and ask a lot of questions, Talbot says. She also hopes they will understand that Picasso was not just about breaking boundaries and surprising people. He was really immersed in the history of art and was deeply inspired by it.

“It’s a story about the way that art inspires art,” Talbot says. “Our art comes from somewhere. For Picasso in particular, it was so much about a dialog with artists that he admired — both his contemporaries and the people that had come before him.”

The Picasso, which is an icon of the Norton Simon collection, hasn’t traveled much, nor has the Ingres portrait. It’s why it offers people in Pasadena the rare opportunity to see these works together.

“We’re able to really enrich the story that we’re telling about (the Picasso) by bringing it together with this painting that inspired it,” Talbot says. “It’s such a unique opportunity to see them together. … It’s the first time they’ve ever been seen together. They have once been exhibited in the same city, but never in the same room. This opportunity won’t come again.”

With the pairing, she says, viewers get a rich history of art making in the 19th and 20th centuries and a look at the values of art over a 100-year period.

While the works are at the Norton Simon, there will be a series of three lectures by the authors of the catalog in October, November and January.

“Picasso Ingres: Face to Face”

WHEN: Friday, October 21, to Monday, January 30

WHERE: Norton Simon Museum, 411 W. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

COST: $15 adults; $12 seniors 62 and older; free children 18 and younger, students with valid ID and museum members

INFO: nortonsimon.org

Fall Arts Preview

Venues roll out the red carpet for the arts this fall

By Bridgette M. Redman

From live music series to musicals to world-premiere theatrical works to paintings classic and modern, the arts organizations in the Pasadena area are rolling out artistic works designed to comfort, challenge and entertain this fall and winter.

With the world a different place than it was even two years ago, arts organizations are inviting audiences in to take in art and to ask the questions great and small while connecting with others. 

Here are some of the events taking place between now and the end of the year.

A Noise Within

3352 E. Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena

626-356-3100, anoisewithin.org

After the musical version of George Orwell’s “An Animal Farm” closes on October 2, A Noise Within is returning to August Wilson’s 10-play American Century Cycle, with the final installment, “Radio Golf,” from October 16 to November 13. Set in the 1990s, it examines the high price we pay for progress as Pittsburgh’s first Black mayoral candidate is faced with choices between his integrity and his personal aspirations. 

Then, from December 3 to December 23, the theater’s co-artistic directors will bring back a Pasadena favorite — Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

Alex Theatre

216 N. Brand Boulevard, Glendale

818-243-ALEX (2539), alextheatre.org

Alex Theatre brings diverse shows to its stage, from music to comedy to opera to musicals. This fall, it’s launching its programming with Lokillo Florez on October 1, followed by the Domination Tour featuring Gigi de Lana and the Gigi Vibes on October 15.

Come November, it will be home to four events. November 5 will see the Wild Honey Foundation and Jody Stephens presenting “Big Star #1,” a benefit celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Big Star “#1” album that will support the Autism Healthcare Cooperative. Performers include Big Star drummer Jody Stephens and Mike Mills of R.E.M. 

On November 12, the Asian Hall of Fame will induct new members including Hiroshima, Olympian Chloe Kim, Daniel Ho and Sen. Tammy Duckworth, among others. 

Then, the Musical Theatre Guild will present “Brigadoon” on November 14, the musical about a mystical land that only appears once every 100 years for a single day. On November 16 and November 17 there will be a tribute concert to singer and composer Hayko.

December heads east with The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles presents “A Motown Holiday” on December 17 and December 18.

Antaeus Theatre Company

110 E. Broadway, Glendale

818-506-5436, antaeus.org

What happens when a modern playwright riffs on 15th century morality plays? Find out with “Everybody” through October 17 at Antaeus Theatre Company, a troupe that explores classics and new takes on classics. In it, five of the actors don’t find out what their roles are until a lottery takes place at the beginning of the play. In October they will also release a free podcast with three of their actors performing “Changeling” by Jennifer Rowland.

Boston Court Pasadena

70 N. Mentor Avenue, Pasadena

626-683-6801, bostoncourtpasadena.org

Whether you want theater, music or film, Boston Court Pasadena is the place to be this fall. It is developing two new works on its stages, both in workshop stage. The first is “Escapegoat: A Workshop Presentation” from October 27 to November 6, which has three actors playing humans, tortoises and goats in an eco-parable set on Galapagos Islands. 

Then, on November 12 and November 13, it will host “Dojyoji: A New Opera Workshop” exploring the tragic Japanese love tale newly conceived by Kentaro Kameyama and featuring piano, two singers and Kameyama’s fashion designs. 

Its live music series includes world-class cellist Anita Graef on October 15 and the Nolan Shaheed Quintet on December 3. Boston Court is also hosting a series of National Theatre Live film screenings of British theatrical performances. October 1 features Kit Harington (“Game of Thrones”) starring in Shakespeare’s “Henry V”; October 6 is “Jack Absolute Flies Again” by Richard Bean; and October 15, October 22, October 29 and October 30 are “Frankenstein” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, who switch off the roles of monster and creator (Boston Court will alternate shows of Version A and Version B).

The Huntington

1151 Oxford Road, San Marino


The Huntington has had a lot to celebrate this fall with the return of “The Blue Boy” by Gainsborough, one of its best-known pieces, which is now being paired with Kehinde Wiley’s modern interpretation of it. Also showing throughout the fall is “Gee’s Bend: Shared Legacy,” made up of quilts and prints celebrating the work of the Alabama Gee’s Bend Quiltmakers’ Collective. Another temporary exhibit on display throughout the fall is “Method and Material: Tempera Painting in Focus” that looks at the history of tempera.

Two new exhibitions open this fall. On October 22, The Huntington will open “Crafting a Garden: Inside the Creation of Liu Fang Yuan,” which explores the intricacies of Chinese gardens through models, photographs, tools and videos. On December 10, it will welcome the traveling exhibition “Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Arts,” which explores Walt Disney’s fascination with European art and the use of French motifs in Disney films and theme parks. 

Luckman Fine Arts Complex

Cal State LA, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles

323-343-6600, luckmanarts.org

At the gateway to the San Gabriel Valley, The Luckman Fine Arts Complex sees the Yamma Ensemble visit on October 2. The internationally renowned musical group plays an array of music that sticks with the Middle East. 

Singing fado — a traditional Portuguese genre — Mariza “embraces the new while never forsaking the old.” She comes to town October 7.

Legendary actress Isabella Rossellini brings her one-woman show “Darwin’s Smile” to the complex October 8 and October 9. The performance is said to “reconcile two worlds that are often at opposite ends: art and science.”

Diva Gloria Gaynor will offer a career-spanning set, including her Grammy-winning hit “I Will Survive,” on November 5. She has scored a hit in five decades. 

CocoRosie blends indie, hip-hop, pop, blues, opera and electronica to develop an avant-garde sound. The group performs November 19. 

Finally, Dionne Warwick will bring her hits — among them “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Walk on By,” “Say a Little Prayer,” “A House is Not a Home,” “Alfie,” “Heartbreaker” and Déjà Vu” — on December 17.  


300 E. Green Street, Third Floor, Pasadena

626-844-7703, muse-ique.com

An organization that travels Los Angeles to pioneer new musical experiences through curated live music events and outreach programs, its only show in Pasadena this fall will feature “Grand Avenue” at The Huntington on October 6 in a concert that explores the worldwide influences of Downtown Los Angeles’ earliest days to now.

Norton Simon Museum

411 W. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

626-449-6840, nortonsimon.org

From the masters to the moderns, Norton Simon Museum has memorable exhibitions planned for this fall. On loan from LACMA, Paul Gaugin’s “The Swineherd” will be on view until November 14 along with other pieces of post-Impressionist art. Opening October 14 and running through February 13 are the work of six women lithography artists working in ink, stone and paper. All six women visited Los Angeles in the 1960s on a two-month fellowship to study lithography.

From October 21 to January 30, “a” brings together for the first time (on loan from London’s National Gallery) Pablo Picasso’s “Woman with a Book” next to the painting that inspired it — Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres’ “Madame Moitessier.”

Open Fist Theatre Company

Atwater Village Theatre, 3269 Casitas Avenue, Los Angeles

323-882-6912, openfist.org

A company that has worked to spread social awareness through art since its founding in 1990, Open Fist presents a “This Week This Week” sketch show about the week’s news every Thursday through November. Starting October 1 and running through November 5, it will present the world premiere of Catherine Butterfield’s “To the Bone” about the “hard girls” in high school — 20 years later when the party is over. Combining family, genetics and baseball, this is a dark comedy about the vagaries of life.

Pasadena Playhouse

39 S. El Mollino Avenue, Pasadena

626-356-7529, pasadenaplayhouse.org

The season opener, a new play by Martyna Majok, continues until October 9. “Sanctuary City” explores the American Dream from the viewpoint of those who were brought here in their youth and must fight to become citizens in the only land they know. 

Pasadena Symphony Ambassador Auditorium

131 S. St. John Avenue, Pasadena

626-793-7172, pasadenasymphony-pops.org

Indoors and out, the Pasadena Symphony has a diverse menu of symphonic classic and pop music this fall, culminating in the ever-popular Holiday Candlelight Concert on December 17 at All Saints Church.

Leading up to that is the Symphony Series featuring Mozart and Saint-Saens on October 22 and Tchaikovsky and Sibelius on November 12.

On December 3 and December 4, the Women’s Committee of the Pasadena Symphony Association will host the 55th annual Holiday Look in Home Tour, showcasing tours of the architecture and gardens of four homes with symphony musicians providing live holiday music in the background.