Norton Simon Museum awaits Manet’s ‘The Railway,’ part of loan exchange

A special guest is pulling into the Norton Simon Museum just in time for Christmas.

Edouard Manet’s 1873 painting “The Railway” will take up temporary residence in the museum’s Impressionist Art Wing on Dec. 5. The painting, which depicts a young woman reading beside the Gare Saint-Lazare, will remain there until March 2, 2015.

After that it will return to its home at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., which acquired it in 1956.


The loan is part of an art exchange program established in 2007 between the Norton Simon, the National Gallery of Art and the Frick Collection in New York City.

In the past the Norton Simon has loaned out pieces by Rembrandt, Renoir and Rubens, and received paintings by Van Gogh, Goya and Raphael.

With these exchanges the Norton Simon hopes to allow visitors to see art they might not otherwise be able to, and enable it to incorporate the loaned paintings into permanent collection galleries that reverberate with a sense of the times.

“When Manet paints he tends to give you a lot in one sweep, and in this picture we’ve got it all,” Norton Simon chief curator Carol Togneri said. “He’s the ultimate Parisian reacting to all the changes happening physically to his city. If this isn’t a statement about the modernization of Paris then I don’t know what is.”

Togneri will surround “The Railway” with the other Manets in the museum’s collection, including one of the painter’s Dutch wife; a still life with fish and shrimp; and the famous “Ragpicker.”

“The Railway” is known for being the last painting Manet made using his favorite model, fellow painter Victorine Meurent. With modern apartment buildings and steam from a train in the background, the painting conjured the hectic quality of contemporary life at the time. It was displayed at the Paris Salon in 1874, where attendees were somewhat baffled by its intentions.

Through the art exchange program, the Norton Simon has a new painting on loan every winter. Last winter it was a Goya from the Frick.

The museum sees an uptick in attendance thanks to the loans, which it requests carefully according to how the partcular painting will fit in with its current collection.

“It’s adding a breath of fresh air to this already beautiful, wide and encyclopedic collection that we have here in Pasadena,” Togneri said.

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