Monday, May 11, 2009

Norton Simon Museum

I've lived in Southern California for...(hold on, I'm counting on my fingers)...sixteen years (yikes!) and I've only been to the Norton Simon Museum twice. Once three years ago and then now. Why now? I blame Thorne. Ever since I gave birth to her, I crave culture, high culture. Living with Steve for the last nine years I've developed a great appreciation for modern and abstract art. Most art prior to the 20th Century was wasted on me. Compared to other museums, the Norton Simon doesn't have the best modern or abstract art collection, so I never visited it. But now, I want to gaze upon the masterpieces of the past, the distant past. Which is why I was ready for the Norton Simon. It's a small intimate museum with a collection of some delightful pieces, but not so many that you become overwhelmed by the process of viewing. Here are links to my favorites:

1. Doesn't this painting look like it's modern? Is it the crispness and color that make it feel that way? I would never have guessed it was painted in 1630.

2. I LOVE this portrait because it appears that the subject is really the ruff rather than the woman. Perhaps the artist thought it would be unseemly to paint a ruff without its owner and therefore needed a woman in the picture to make it palatable to 17th century sensibilities.

3. Van Gogh is simply awesome. His colors combined with his brush strokes make this painting burst with kinetic energy. I want to eat it.

4. One day while living in Honolulu, Hawaii I got it into my head that I wanted to read about art and artists, particularly those living in Paris. I don't know where this urge came from, but it led me to Modigliani. I don't know why I picked him as I'd never heard of him before. I retrieved one book from the library on Modigliani, devoured it, returned it and was sated. But it left a residue of like for the man's work and this is one of my favorites.

5. When my sister and I were much younger and a lot more naive (neither of which is relevant to the rest of this comment) we went on a grand European tour that included stops in Florence and Rome. I saw enough "Madonna and Bambino" paintings and sculptures to last a lifetime. One might say I was inoculated against them from overexposure. So my eyes mostly glaze over when I see them in any other museums. But this one, Beauregard Madonna, made me stop and take a second look. The expressions on both faces are arresting and feel modern despite being made in 1455. Instead of the usual beatific portrayals they look like real people. The Christ child especially looks like a shy kid not a putto, or as Sister Wendy would say of Raphael's version, a sumo wrestler (Now that's an image, Jesus as sumo wrestler).

We agreed to meet at the museum at 11am. But they didn't open until noon so we had to loiter elsewhere. Fortunately, the Culinary Cafe was open and only to willing to sell us some yummy chocolate croissants to help us pass the time.

Here's Thorne looking perplexed or perturbed at the two crazy ladies talking at her. She's clutching Mr. Blue Elephant her toy du jour. He's particularly savory which is why his ears, nose, and tail are rather soggy.

Another delightful day with charming company.