LACMA Lends a Gauguin to Norton Simon

Paul Gauguin, The Swineherd, 1888. LACMA
With its permanent collection galleries closed for construction LACMA has lent another key European painting to a local institution. Paul Gauguin's The Swineherd (1888) is on view at the Norton Simon Museum through Nov. 9, 2020.

The Swineherd was Norton Simon's first big art purchase, setting him back $60,000 in 1955 dollars. In a letter, Wildenstein's E.J. Rousuck assured Simon that "It was at Pont-Aven that, in the opinion of many, [Gauguin] painted most of his greatest pictures. This Gauguin is the greatest example of the Pont-Aven period. It is world-famous."

That stretches the truth, both on Pont-Aven and The Swineherd (v. Vision After the Sermon, say). But The Swineherd is a handsome picture marking the artist's transition from Impressionism to the flattened, brilliantly colored landscapes of his maturity. The yellow pigs, accented by Gauguin's yellow signature, were radical for the time. Shortly after Simon's purchase art historian John Reward asked permission to reproduce The Swineherd in his book on Post-Impressionism. Simon agreed and chipped in $500 to have the painting reproduced in color. He knew the value of color in selling Hunt's Catsup.

In 1970 Simon and first wife Lucille Ellis Simon divorced, splitting the art collection. Lucille took the Gauguin and gave it to LACMA in 1991.

At the NSM, The Swineherd is shown alongside a Tahitian period Gauguin and other works from the Pont-Aven school.
1952 magazine ad for Hunt's Catsup. Norton Simon's Val Vita Food Products bought Hunt's in 1943