The Norton Simon Museum, located near Old Town Pasadena, holds the private art collection of Mr. Simon. The museum was originally the “Pasadena Museum of Modern Art”, until 1972 when Norton Simon put some of his collection on display. His collection of over 4000 pieces took over to the extent that the place was named after him in 1974. The Museum is now (in my opinion) one of the top three art museums in the Los Angeles area, along with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Getty Center.
The Norton Simon Museum has less pieces than LACMA or the Getty, but the pieces that they have are impressive and well known. You can watch a thirty minute video about Norton Simon and the art collection at some point in your visit. The video indicates that his intelligence was not well expressed in the classroom, it was instead reflected in his ability to play craps with the other students after school. He started law school after graduating from high school, but promptly quit to get involved in sheet metal distribution. He later became involved in Hunt’s Foods, where he was known for his unique style of advertising. Norton didn’t develop an appreciation for art until his 40’s, but he went “all out” by searching for pieces from the Old Masters. His ability to acquire prized pieces was facilitated by his gift at negotiating and communicating over the telephone. (The telephone can be a powerful tool).
You will recognize a number of artists in the collection, even if you didn’t take a course in art history (or if (like me) you took a course but you didn’t pay attention). The Museum is regarded for its comprehensive collection of the Dega’ s “dancer” sculptures. You can find Impressionist/Post-Impressionist pieces from Monet, Degas, van Gogh and Cézanne, as well as more recent pieces by Picasso, and some famous pieces by Rembrandt. Some of the most well known pieces include Rembrandt’s Portrait of a Boy, Van Gogh’s Mulberry Tree, and Francisco de Zurbarán’s Still Life with Lemons, Oranges, and a Rose (or as I like to call it, “the one with the huge lemons”). The security guards are out in full force in the museum, but they seem pleasant about individuals taking pictures (as long as you don’t use flash). This is in contrast to some other museums where security guards don’t say anything when you take non-flash photos, but you know that they are silently thinking negatively about you and your family.
You can take a break from the art by exploring the garden outside. You will find sculptures, a small body of water, and a cafeteria. The sculptures are cognitively appealing, the small body of water is primatively appealing (as water is essential for our survival), and the cafeteria is not recommended (I didn’t try it, but it received less than optimal reviews on Yelp).
If you don’t get a chance to see the museum in person, you may catch it on television when it makes it yearly background appearance in the Tournament of Roses Parade.