RIP: On Art and Mourning
September 8, 2017 - November 27, 2017
Release Date: June 9, 2017
Pasadena, CA—The Norton Simon Museum presents a small but moving group of seldom-seen works of art from the collection that expound on the theme of mourning. Spanning millennia, cultures and media, from a 3,000 year-old Egyptian coffin to a 1960s silkscreen by Andy Warhol, the artworks on view demonstrate how artists create objects to honor a life, find meaning in tragedy and comfort the living.
Funereal customs and methods of mourning vary from one region to another, reflect different beliefs in the afterlife and range from grief-stricken to raucous. What does not vary, however, is the raw emotion that accompanies loss, and the need to find solace through friends, natural beauty and art. RIP: On Art and Mourning includes a range of objects that explore how artists respond to death. Most striking, perhaps, is a highly decorated Egyptian coffin from c. 1100–500 BCE. A rare example of Egyptian art in the Simon collection, the coffin is decorated with hieroglyphic writing that identifies the deceased as a chantress named Tarutu, who sang in the Temple of Amun, in Tekhneh, modern-day Akoris in Upper Egypt, on the east bank of the Nile. Two other examples from the Classical world are an ancient Attic grave stele commemorating a young mother named Philokydis (c. 360–350 BCE), and an encaustic portrait of a young unnamed man, painted in Egypt in the Greco-Roman style (second century CE).
Later works include Horace Vernet’s poignant oil on canvas Soldier in the Field of Battle (1818) and Goya’s haunting Beds of Death (1863) from the print series Disasters of War. These powerful works of art take viewers beyond personal suffering to world-weary scenes of war, plague and political confrontation. Eugène Atget’s photograph Funeral (Pompe Funèbre–1e classe) (1910, printed 1956 by Bernice Abbott from Atget’s negative) captures a decorated funeral coach with horses sitting patiently in full sun in front of the Church of Saint-Sulpice. Andy Warhol’s Jacqueline Kennedy II (Jackie II) (1966) evokes the grief of the nation in 1963, depicting the First Lady at the funeral of her assassinated husband. A serene death mask of the Jewish-Italian painter and sculptor Amedeo Modigliani, who died of tubercular meningitis at age 35, was lovingly cast by his heartbroken friend Jacques Lipchitz (1920).
RIP: On Art and Mourning brings this disparate group of artworks together to remind visitors about the essential role of art in times of grief. It is organized by Carol Togneri, chief curator at the Norton Simon Museum and installed in the small exhibition gallery on the Museum’s main level from September 8 through November 27, 2017.
IMAGE CREDIT: Coffin of Tarutu, Singer in the Temple of Amun, c. 1126-525 B.C.E., Egypt, Wood, painted and inlaid with bronze and glass, Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Jennifer Jones Simon
About the Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon Museum is known around the world as one of the most remarkable private art collections ever assembled. Over a 30-year period, industrialist Norton Simon (1907–1993) amassed an astonishing collection of European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century, and a stellar collection of South and Southeast Asian art spanning 2,000 years. Modern and Contemporary Art from Europe and the United States, acquired by the former Pasadena Art Museum, also occupies an important place in the Museum’s collections. The Museum houses more than 12,000 objects, roughly 1,000 of which are on view in the galleries and gardens. Two temporary exhibition spaces feature rotating installations of artworks not on permanent display.
Location: The Norton Simon Museum is located at 411 W. Colorado Blvd. at Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena, Calif., at the intersection of the Foothill (210) and Ventura (134) freeways. For general Museum information, please call (626) 449-6840 or visit nortonsimon.org.
Connect with Us: Visit us online for information on our many virtual programs, or stay connected through our social media channels.
Leslie C. Denk
High-resolution images from the exhibition may be obtained by emailing [email protected]
Read more about the exhibition.