The Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum
The Norton Simon museum is located right on the Rose Parade route, providing a backdrop for televised coverage of the procession. Inside the building is an eclectic collection of artworks, assembled by a private collector who took over the management of the Pasadena Art Museum in 1974. With the addition of his private collections, the museum grew, becoming an important place for artists and art enthusiasts in the Southern California area. Today, the museum is open to the public six days a week and offers an impressive selection of art on display as well as a wealth of programs for adults as well as for families.

Norton Simon was one of the premier collectors of art in the mid-twentieth century, and the collection spans styles and genres. There are two floors to the museum, with the top floor built in the shape of an “H”. Here, the museum showcases six centuries of European art, arranged chronologically. Tapestries and paintings from the Early and High Renaissance make up one of the halls on the northern side of the building; across the rotunda, one can view works from the Dutch masters as well as Baroque and Rococo artists.

On the south side of the top floor, two galleries display works from the 19th and 20th centuries. This is the side with works by artists that are most recognizable to the general public; there are several offerings by Van Gogh, Monet, and other Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters, including Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. The hall devoted to the 20th century is also on the south side of the building, with paintings by Picasso, Matisse, and other artists from the early twentieth century hung close to those painted later on in the century. California resident Sam Francis is represented, as is Mexican painter Diego Rivera.

The basement of the building also contains rooms filled with art, but the focus down here is on Asian art. Sculptures from South and Southeast Asia are permanently on display, as are paintings from India and Tibet. Rooms devoted to changing exhibitions are also located on this floor.

The Norton Simon museum contains a sculpture garden that is located outside both levels of the building. Works by Rodin are located in front of the museum’s entrance; the main entranceway leads out into the back garden area, where there are more sculptures, a beautiful, four-season garden area, and the museum’s café. On the lower level, Buddhas and other Asian religious sculptures are set into the greenery. On both levels, benches are located as various points in the garden, allowing the visitor to sit and contemplate the area. The garden is famous for both its sculpture pieces and its plantings.

The Norton Simon Museum opens at noon and closes at 5pm Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday; on Fridays and Saturdays, the galleries are open until 8p (the garden, café, and museum store close fifteen minutes before the rest of the building.) Visitors, take note: the Norton Simon is closed on Tuesdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the day of the Rose Parade; in addition, inclement weather can close the garden for several days after a heavy downpour. Call ahead after a rainstorm if viewing the garden is the primary purpose of the visit.

Norton Simon Museum, 411 W Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena.

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