Sunday, November 7, 2010

Norton Simon Muesem

Personal Taste. We all have it. Mine is a penchant for brightly colored furniture, sundresses and pearls. A unifying aesthetic that gives an art collection a distinct personality is often lacking in big corporate museums like the Getty and my beloved LACMA. There are just too many curators, overly involved trustees and board members. That's why the Norton Simon Museum is such a delight. And I apologize in advance if I sound a bit pretentious or high minded today, but Pasadena always puts me in that mood. It's such a god dang CLASSY place.

As an art lover, I have a passion for soft and melancholy paintings. I am drawn to solitary figures- be they a pretty girl, a struggling sailboat or a grand old tree. Apparently, those who shaped the collections at Norton Simon (including his wife, the movie star Jenifer Jones: see the movie, "Beat the Devil"!), have exactly the same taste. The gallery of 19th century works sometimes smacks of the "greatest hits" collection of names that plagues many small museums, with its abundance of Degas, Pissaro's and Monet's. But it also has several beautifully wistful paintings. Some highlights include spectacular Van Gogh's, a lovely Renoir and a chic Mogdolini.

I mean the gallery even smells like class.

Downstairs is another major treat- a huge collection of the often humorous, always grand 19th century Japanese artist, Hiroshige. Hiroshige was a major inspiration to the artists in the "impressionist" gallery above. There was one weak gallery upstairs. It was filled with my least favorite and seemingly the most plentiful kind of art- 18th and 19th century Dutch genre paintings. I find their dark backgrounds, highly theatrical depictions of the bible or those terrible still life's of rotting fruit or dead animals depressing. I mean, who the hell wants to see a poor dead bunny hanging by the legs, or some ho cutting off John the Baptist's head?

But in the back of that gallery was a real treat- a small but well selected group of Medieval, Flemish and Renaissance religious works and the ethereal and graceful Cowper Madonna by Raphael, which was on loan from the National Gallery in DC.

The crowd was very decidedly un-LA and thoroughly un-hip chill and chubby suburban. There is a very romantic and misty sculpture garden surrounding a lake, a great store with cheap, high quality prints and best of all, it was free! Every first Friday night of the month is free, my friends,so go have yourself a tasteful, grown-up and economical night.

Travel: D ( I had a late but lovely Thursday night and was super tired, and I HATE the 1-10, so Jess was kind enough to drive back...seriously, Friday night traffic was a nightmare.)

Ease: B
Content: A
Subjective Coolness: A
Overall: A-

Directions: Take the 101-South to the 1-10 North to the 66 East. Museum is on the left at 411 East Colorado Blvd.
Hours: Monday-Sunday 12-6. Friday 12-9. Closed on Tuesday.

Price: Adults: $8, Seniors: $4, children up to 18: free, valid student ID( I know some of y'all still have those...liars): free. Parking free in lot. Free first Fridays of each month.

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