Unparalleled: The Norton Simon Museum

Known internationally as one of the most remarkable private fine-art collections ever assembled, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, California, is an art-lover’s paradise!

The Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum

Spanning a period of 30 years, Norton Simon, a wealthy industrialist gathered an unparalleled collection of European art from the Renaissance to the 20th century and a stellar collection of South and Southeast Asian art spanning 2,000 years.

Featured among this collection are works such as the “Branchini Madonna” by Giovanni di Paolo; “Madonna and Child with Book” by Raphael; “Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose” by Francisco de Zurbarán; “Portrait of a Boy” by Rembrandt van Rijn; “Mulberry Tree” by Vincent van Gogh; “Little Dancer Aged Fourteen” by Edgar Degas; and “Woman with a Book” by Pablo Picasso. Highlighting the extensive Asian collection are bronze sculptures from Bihar, Tamil Nadu, and Nepal.

A classic pedigree

The Norton Simon Museum evolved from the Pasadena Art Institute, which was founded in 1922 and incorporated in 1924 as a privately endowed, nonprofit institution. Originally comprised of local citizens, the primary goals of the Institution were to establish and maintain a museum and library of art as well as encourage the study of fine arts.

In 1974, after years of expansion, change, and eventually, facing bankruptcy, the then-Pasadena Art Museum came under the control Simon and a reorganized Board of Trustees, who assumed management of the museum’s building and melding its important collection of 20th-century European and American art with the outstanding collections of the Norton Simon foundations.

Some of the art featured in the Pasadena Art Museum’s collection were:

  • Galka Scheyer Blue Four Collection, a body of works by artists Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Alexei Jawlensky, Vasily Kandinsky and others assembled by art dealer, scholar and muse Galka Scheyer;
  • Post-war American art, particularly from Southern California-based artists including John Altoon, Larry Bell, Wallace Berman, Bruce Conner, Richard Diebenkorn, Llyn Foulkes, Sam Francis, George Herms, Robert Irwin, and Ed Ruscha; and
  • A photography collection comprised of works by Ansel Adams, Lewis Baltz, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Imogen Cunningham, Frederick Sommer, Edward Weston, and Minor White, among others.

Currently, the Norton Simon Museum features approximately 1,000 works from the permanent collection of 12,000 objects in its galleries and sculpture gardens throughout the year. The facility also features two temporary exhibition spaces and each year, the staff mounts three to five exhibitions centered on the collection, as well as one special masterpiece loan.

Additionally, in an effort to maximize the impact of these exhibitions, the Museum offers six to ten free public programs each month that include scholarly lectures and symposia, adult education courses, music and dance performances and hands-on activities for children. Private tours also are available by reservation. The Norton Simon Art Foundation also produces scholarly publications focused on segments of the collections on view at the Museum.


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