‘Lesser artists borrow; great artists steal.‘
The National Gallery London where I just visited the stunning Raphael exhibit is hosting for the first time, Pablo Picasso’s ‘Woman with a Book’ (1932) from the Norton Simon Museum, California. It will be paired with the painting that inspired it, ‘Madame Moitessier’ by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.
Picasso first encountered the enigmatic ‘Madame Moitessier’ at an exhibition in Paris, in 1921, and was enthralled. Over the next decade, he repeatedly referenced Ingres in his art, and painted ‘Woman with a Book’, one of his most celebrated portraits, in homage to Ingres’s famous work.
For Ingres, a 19th-century French artist steeped in the academic tradition, the beautiful and wealthy Madame Moitessier represented the classical ideal. Wearing her finest clothes and jewelry, she gazes at the viewer majestically, the embodiment of luxury and style during the Second Empire.
Picasso, born 100 years after Ingres, is famous for a very different, abstract, style of art, but his inspiration is clear. The model for ‘Woman with a Book’, Picasso’s then young mistress, Marie-Thérèse Walter, mimics Madame Moitessier’s distinct pose. The painting balances sensuality and restraint, striking a chord with the eroticism latent beneath Ingres’s image of bourgeois respectability.
‘Picasso Ingres: Face to Face’ is a unique opportunity to see these two portraits, side by side, for the first time, and to trace the continuous thread between 19th and 20th-century artistic development.
Exhibition organized in partnership with the Norton Simon Museum, California.
From The National Gallery Press