Sunday, September 5, 2010

Norton Simon Museum

Last Sunday I visited for the first time the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. I had been wanting to go ever since Miss Ashley blogged about it and told me how lovely the gardens are. So I was shocked and thrilled when the boy said he wanted to go check it out that afternoon. We jumped in the car post-haste (But since the museum doesn't open until noon, we didn't have to feel guilty about not getting there until 1:30. We're so lazy on Sundays.)

Located right off the freeway but somewhat hidden from the street, the California Modern building (renovated by renowned architect Frank Gehry a decade ago) would be easy to miss while cruising down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena. It's no Getty. But it's definitely worth a stop. And the Norton's smallish size makes actually seeing all the galleries a doable and pleasurable task. There's lots to see but not so much that you feel overwhelmed by it all. I'd say the galleries are perfectly edited.

The museum houses art from the 14th Century to modern day. There's Asian art halls, too. We skipped from century to century on our visit, not viewing chronologically whatsoever. Simply following our whims.

The first gallery we explored housed works by Impressionists, Post Impressionists and mid-century Realists from the 1800s. I absolutely love Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh-- I have Starry Night and The Cafe Terrace hanging in my room, and Irises framed but packed away in a box right now-- so I was positively giddy when his works were the very first things I saw. I'm not exaggerating when I say I practically ran over to take a picture. So much for museum etiquette.

The Mulberry Tree

Portrait of a Peasant

That gallery also reintroduced me to a painter I studied in college but had long forgotten about: Edgar Degas. I simply fell in love with the Frenchman's ballerina series, which included both painted works and bronze sculptures. This piece below was my favorite; I even bought a print of it in the gift shop, along with van Gogh's The Mulberry Tree. I couldn't resist.

The Star: Dancer on Pointe

As the afternoon went on we weaved our way through the rest of the exhibits. Here's a few of my other favorite pieces at the Norton:

Those familiar with "Desperate Housewives" will know this piece. Titled Adam and Eve, it was painted by a German named Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1530.

I'm partial to modern and contemporary art so I loved this watercolor-inspired piece, Basel Mural I (1956-58), by northern California-born painter Sam Francis. That's the boy examining it up close.

Now I'm not a huge fan of Pablo Picasso but I can't argue with his fame in the art world, so I had to snap a picture of this piece, Woman with Book.

The Asian art halls were primarily filled with old sculptures. Unlike in the other galleries, we didn't read up on each piece, instead opting to simply walk through and take it all in, only stopping at the works that really caught our eye. This room below sort of took my breath away. I loved how you could see out into the garden, the statue outside being just as much a part of the exhibit as the ones inside the walls.

My favorite gallery by far was the temporary exhibit, Hiroshige: Visions of Japan, which was filled with nearly 200 woodblock prints by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). I was literally in awe of this work; I'd never really seen anything like it at another museum. Hiroshige's primary subject was Tokyo but I was enamored by his bird and flower prints, too. Check out a sampling of the exhibit below:

All my photos really don't do the art justice but the museum's "no flash" rule means having slightly fuzzy photos.

Now, I know I've shared a lot with you, but I hope you've enjoyed this little e-tour of the Norton! I can't leave you, though, without sharing a few snapshots from those lovely gardens I told you about.

Hope you are having a wonderful, long Labor Day weekend!

Also: Anyone been to a great museum lately? I'd love to hear :)


petite carousel said...

Another van gogh fan over here =)

My last museum visit was Musée Rodin in Paris, a bit similiar to Norton Simon, housed in lovely gardens.

Dionne said...

Awww... what a lovely day trip! I lived in Pasadena but never went in, can you believe it?!!!