For my friend Brian (Sharon’s boyfriend) and me, our main objective in going to LA on Monday was to visit the Norton Simon Museum in San Diego. There is an extensive collection of European art (with some emphasis on the masters of the 16th-19th centuries) and Asian art (focusing primarily on Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism). Like most museums, there were a few special exhibits such as one on works by Ruth Weisberg.
While Weisberg cites Guido Cagnacci’s Martha Rebuking Mary for Her Vanity as an inspiration for her works, I also couldn’t help noticing a similarity to the vibrant images William Blake created to accompany his poetry. Her images also have a very strong sense of allegorical narrative and some of her subjects bear names of certain virtues and attributes. The one of the nude male below is “Hesitation.”
With European art, there are lots of portraits of wealthy people, religious art that’s essentially an excuse to show naked people, and even some still lifes and art studies. The Norton has a few Rembrandts in its collection, including this self portrait. He’s notable for how he sees people and how he portrays them with his technique. Rembrandt is also the artists artist as he constantly studied works of art to feed his own work.
There are some rare Picassos, especially ones that don’t have the notoriety of Guernica or the various cubist paintings. The ones on exhibit highlight his appropriationist nature, as he is mentioned as saying “Bad artists copy, good artists steal!” Here, he references an earlier image of David and Bathsheba and applies his own style.
The Norton had a surrounding garden where one could stroll and view some of their outdoor sculptures. Due to the rain, it was closed off to the public. However, in from the north end of the Asian art collection, one could view some of the sculptures, such as this Buddha.
The Norton Simon Museum is well worth the drive up to Pasadena. The quality of its collection definitely rivals that of any Smithsonian gallery. I will have to return again, whether to take things in a second time or to see more of their special exhibits.