Tuesday, March 9, 2010

… and also in West Palm Beach, Florida

On the second day of our little trip to West Palm Beach (see first day here) we decided to visit the Norton Museum of Art which is close to the center of town on Dixie Avenue almost in front of Woodland Cemetery. I had read that this museum was the largest art museum in Florida with a distinguished collection of modern masters as well as 19th and 20th century art including some international masterpieces such as French artists Braque, Gauguin, Monet, Utrillo and American artists David, Hassam and Hopper. (Click on pictures to enlarge them.)

As we entered the museum we were greeted by a large sign announcing a special exhibit of photographs by fashion photographer Richard Avedon (1923-2004.) I remember seeing many of his imaginative photographs in fashion magazines, like Elle in France and also Vogue here. Security told us that pictures could be taken outside the exhibit, but not inside. I did buy some Avedon postcards in the gift shop so I could show them here (copyright the Richard Avedon Foundation. )

Richard Avedon is one of the greatest fashion photographers and maybe the most talented of the 20th century. He revolutionized fashion photography with his very innovative style, capturing his subjects in motion and showing them in a new light. He started his career by taking ID pictures for the US Merchant Marine. Then he became the fashion photographer for Harper’s Bazaar from 1945 to 1965. He then went on to Vogue magazine but at the same time he created many artistic series and portraits. Some of his portraits are of the famous and high-profile celebrities of the time such as Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, Elizabeth Taylor and many others. More than 160 of his works are on exhibit at the Norton until 9 May, 2010. It was thrilling to see original magazine covers and vintage prints that I had seen in many magazines.

From top left: Cher in 1974 (Cheryl Sarkisian, American singer born May 20 1946) - Richard Avedon in front of his portraits - Model Davima with dog Sacha in a suit by Balenciaga in Café des Deux Magots, Paris 1965 - Brigitte Bardot in 1959 (French actress born Sept 28, 1934.)

After looking attentively at all these photographs and getting in the mood of the 60s in Paris I was ready to get back to Florida and sit for a while. Outside of the exhibit, back on the main floor of the museum, is a small circular room with a colorful Dale Chihuly (American Glass Blowing artist, born in 1941) glass ceiling. I took some pictures but they don’t do it justice – looking up to the ceiling you gaze through 700 individual glass sculptures. They create layers of translucent and joyful colors evoking an aquatic experience.

We walked to the new wing of the museum where a wide staircase leads to two floors of the permanent collection. As you walk up you pass by metal light boxes containing quotes from some well-known artists, such as: “To be an artist is to believe in life” – Henry Moore, “Art seems to me to be above all a state of soul” – Marc Chagall.

Once rested we trotted to the second floor where the Chinese art was located with tons of sculptures, furniture and exquisite ink paintings.

The Goddess Avalokitesvara, bronze sculpture by Allan Clark, American 1896-1950

The Norton Museum’s permanent collection consists of 5000 works – we could only see a small portion of them. I liked the American wing with such painters as Andrew Wyeth and Abbott Fuller Graves. I purchased the postcards below of their works.

Postcard of Pirate Country, 1939 watercolor by Andrew Wyeth, American 1917-2009

Postcard of Gathering Lilies, 1900, Abbott Fuller Graves, American 1859-1936

Then we walked into the European masters wing. I cannot describe the feeling to find myself in front of a known painting that I have only seen in a picture reproduction. There were several Maurice Utrillo’s.

Maurice Utrillo, French 1883-1955 from top: Rue de Montmartre, Little Country Church, Le Préau (the Courtyard.)

A few years ago we visited the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas to see the Monet exhibit they had at the time. It was “Monet and the Mediterranean.“ Claude Monet was an indefatigable traveler in pursuit of light and visual stimuli. In 1884 he started his trip on the Côte d’Azur and went all the way to Venice, Italy. The museum in Fort Worth had assembled all his paintings from that period. The art works were loaned from private collectors and museums from all over the world. The Norton Museum Monet below had been loaned to the Texas exhibition.

Gardens at the Villa Moreno, Bordighera 1884, Claude Monet, French 1840-1926

This Monet painting was back at the Norton’s and we were pleased to admire it again. There were also the Portrait of Marguerite by Henri Matisse, The Man with a Carnation by Pierre Auguste Renoir and The Viaduct by Fernand Léger. I could not move from the Georges Braque paintings. I had looked at them so often in a small book I had when in France. I took art lessons in Paris and would have liked to possess his bold Cubism style which I tried to reproduce, in my manner. And there, in a small town in Florida were his paintings. These French paintings were so far away from their original homes; did they feel “heimat” like I did? Are they just pieces of fabric with some wood around them? Or do they get special vibrations when surrounded by the language that was spoken when they were created? (don’t think French is spoken very often at the Norton Museum though.)

From top left: Man with a Carnation, Pierre Auguste Renoir, French 1841-1919
Le Semaphore, Georges Braque, French, 1882-1963
Le Viaduct, Fernand Leger, French 1881-1955
Portrait of Marguerite, Henri Matisse, French 1869-1954

We saw many other pieces of art, more than I can remember. As we passed a glass wall on our way outside I took a couple of photographs because of the shadows and shapes – the curved benches, the sun reflecting on the ground and the palm trees outside the hurricane-proof glass.

We left and went back to a small seafood restaurant we had driven by because we realized that after several hours looking at art we had built up an appetite. It was called the Gulfstream Seafood Restaurant. We sampled a couple of their specials:

My husband had fish with corn on the cob and mixed vegetables

I had the stuffed snapper with sweet potato fries and marinated beets

It was time to go for a walk. I was ready to take more photographs but clouds were hovering and the sun was gone. We walked on Flagler Avenue along Lake Worth. Across from us was the Flagler Museum on Palm Beach Island – that was on our list for a visit in the next couple of days. Close by was the Breakers Hotel.

There were very few people walking along the lake (actually, none.)

I have a vintage postcard of the Lake Trail, but that day the water was not at all calm.

The wind was picking up, the palm trees were swaying. During the winter months it may be quite windy along Worth Lake since there are braces to protect the palm trees. Looking up I wondered if any of the coconut would fall on our heads.

As the wind was getting stronger the palm trees were waving even more and the lake was getting choppier.

The sky was darkening, so we decided to call it a day.

Then it was time for me to check all my travel brochures and plan our next day.

Painting by George Goodwin Kilburne, English 1839-1924


ADDENDUM: Several readers asked me if the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida is connected with the Norton Simon Museum of Pasadena, California. I do not think so.

A wealthy industrialist (former head of Chicago based Acme Steel Co.) Ralph Hubbard Norton (1875-1953) and his wife Elizabeth Calhoun Norton (1881-1947) retired to West Palm Beach with a collection of over 5000 sculptures and paintings. They believed that their collection should be preserved and shared so decided to place them in a museum. The Norton Museum of Art opened in 1941.

Industrialist Norton Simon (1907-1993) was a passionate art collector who had amassed a growing collection of over 4,000 art objects and was looking for a location to display them. In 1974 the Pasadena Art Museum which was financially strapped made an overture to Mr Simon. They came to an agreement : Norton Simon absorbed the museum debts and assumed its leadership. The Pasadena Art Museum changed its name to the Norton Simon Museum.

I did not know of the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena, but now that I do, next time I am in California I shall visit it and tell you all about it.


DJan said...

What a wonderful travelogue I have just been given. The pictures are very interesting, and the commentary as well. The glass ceiling is intriguing.

I saw the Monet collection at Musee d'Orsay in Paris and loved everything I saw. The actual paintings are so alive and reproductions don't do justice to them. You do look quite satisfied wrapped in your checkered shawl after a full day! :-)

Vicki Lane said...

What riches! Avedon and Chihuly are favorites of mine. And I hope you spoke to the French paintings in their native tongue.

And I too would have chosen the stuffed snapper.

TorAa said...

When I look at all this splendour,
well, suddenly pondered:
What is Art all about?

Ruth said...

She looks cozy there, resting after a long day in the museum.

You must have been so thrilled to to see all those works that you had admired in books. I wonder if this Norton is related to the Norton-Simon museum in Pasadena where we lived 5 years?

Beautiful works there. You make me want to visit Miami.

Amy said...

Is the Norton Museum part of the Norton in Pasadena? Regardless, you captured the place splendidly. I liked the way you transitioned from area to area, then to the food, then finally to the "sofa." I've always been a Wyeth fan and the architecture of the museum mixed with the flora of Florida complimented each other very much. Very enjoyable read, so thank you!

Louis la Vache said...

Your post about the Norton confirms what «Louis» has been told about it. «Louis» thanks you for sharing this with us.

His grandfather on his mother's side was a glass blower at the now-defunct Cambridge Glass Works in Cambridge, Ohio. Both «Louis» and his late grandfather would love to see that glass ceiling.

hee hee - this gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "glass ceiling", in this case, it is NOT a pejorative one!

Reader Wil said...

Merci de faire voir ces choses magnifiques: le plafond de verre est très beau!Je n'ai pas connu Dale Chihuly, mais maintenant je suis heureuse de voir ce plafond. J'aime aussi les peintures impressionnistes.
Bonne journée!

Pame Recetas said...

What a wonderful day you spent, and I'm so grateful you share it with us your readers. I loved the ceiling in pictures, can't imagine what it is to actually look at it.
I'm a Monet follower, but I would have enjoyed each and every other paintings. Loved the snapper too. But when it comes to windy coasts, palms trees waving, no thank you....

Pondside said...

That Chihuly ceiling - wonderful!
You certainly captured the changeable nature of Florida days in your photos of the trees and water. This post did what a good travel piece should do - made me want to go to Palm Beach.

Ashley Ashbee said...

I wonder how that fashion photographer achieved that beautiful lighting.

And I REALLY want to walk down that wicked cool staircase!

Glad you had a good time, Vagabonde.

lorilaire said...

Superbe musée !
Je ne le connaissais pas, dès les premières photos, je suis sous le charme :Marylin et Brigitte Bardot mes star préférées.
Puis Renoir que j'admire énormément, je ne connaissais pas ce tableau !
Et pour finir ce plafond magnifique §
Je suis comblée !
Merci pour cette escapade.
Bises de Normandie

Elaine said...

That looks like a delightful art museum. I have seen Chihuly's work in Tacoma and it is amazing. That ceiling must be incredible to see.

Roger Gauthier said...

Magnifique message, Vagabonde ! Intéressant, instructif... tu as dû y consacrer un temps considérable,je n'ose l'imaginer.

Merci de toute cette information. Voilà un autre endroit que je coche dans ma liste de places à visiter. Un jour...

Roger :-)

Friko said...

seeing postcards of art cannot nearly be as fascinating as seeing the original artwork. this has been an exhaustively informative visit to what seems to be a wonderful museum.
Now you are teaching me to look at museums differently! I like museums but I tend to get tired from long standing and slow walking from exhibit to exhibit and I quickly need to go out into daylight and breathe normal air. That way I miss a lot. Perhaps I need to find out if it is possible to go in and out several times in future.

btw. my friends and I used to adore BB and tried to copy her as much as we could as teenagers.

Darlene said...

I have never been to the Norton Museum in Florida, but have been to the Simon Norton museum in Pasadena several times. I love the Rodin sculptures on the grounds as well as other sculptures displayed there. Someplace I have slides I took the last time I visited.

I enjoyed the small sculptures by Degas at that museum. I don't know whether they are part of the permanent exhibit or were on loan.

I would love to see the ceiling. It must be fabulous.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

I love the Norton Museum. We were lucky enough to visit when they were showing the French Impressionist collection from the Boston Museum several years ago. However, the Norton has some lovely French Impressionist painting in their collection too. I particularily like the man with the Carnation by Renoir. I could look at it for hours.

I'll have to check out that restaurant. Palm Beach holds a special place in my heart.

claude said...

Quel plaisir de parcourir tes posts Vagabonde !
Le portrait de bardot est superbe. La sculpture en bronze d'Allan Clark est magnifique.
J'aime beaucoup la carte postamle Gatghering Lilies.
Je préfère Monet et Renoir à Utrillo.
J'adore le vivaneau. On en mange beaucoup quand on est à la Martinique. Ici je n'en trouve pas, mais il paraît que je peux en acheter au Mans dans une Boutique de produits asiatiques.

claude said...

Concernant les rond-points en france (ce qui avait beaucoup étonné nos amis de SLC) il y a beaucoup d'accidents. Au lieu d'avoit fait des ronds-points à uner seule file, il y a en deux, ce qui créée des problèmes de priorité ou de dépssements dans du bon côté. Je comprends pourquoi tu ferme les yeux ! Julia appelle ça des loopy loops !

Bhavesh Chhatbar said...

Your posts are always full of interesting things :)

Wednesday Wallpaper - Deer

Shammickite said...

What a lovely day you had!
Renoir's "Man with a Carnation" looks so young.... almost too young to grow that moustache! And I'm so glad that no coconuts fell on you on your stroll along the lake path.

Louis la Vache said...

«Louis» neglected to write in his previous comment that he likes the old postcard in the first image.

Reader Wil said...

Hi Vagabonde! Merci encore de votre visite. Oui, c'est vrai c’est un objet en verre. Je "jetterai un coup d'oeil" au blog de votre amie parce que ça me semnble très intéressant. Merci!Bonne journée!

Ginnie said...

I thought I had already done it, Vagabonde, but I have just added your blog to my Google Reader to keep up with you better. Your posts are always so chock-full of information. I love it. And Andrew Wyeth is one of my favorite painters of all time, so you made my day. :)

Reader Wil said...

Vagabonde! J'ai vu les sculptures fabriquées avec de la glace en Alaska que votre amie a montrées a son blog. Elles sont très belles.Merci de votre visite!

penny said...

You picked the best of the best when it comes to art and food in West Palm. I'm glad to see that you and your husband are having such a wonderful time on your visit to south Florida. Enjoy!

Angela said...

The food looks tempting! And I just love palm trees! That`s all I`m missing here. Thanks for your beautiful posts.

Marguerite said...

Looks like a wonderful way to spend a day! Lovely paintings and scenery! And that seafood is to die for and looks scrumptious! If I'm ever in that neighborhood, I will go there. Have a delightful week, cher!

Ratty said...

That looks like such a wonderful place. I have never been to an art museum, but I would love to one day.

* said...

Reading this post, I feel as if I've just returned from a most wonderful trip!

I love the art, the pictures, the corn on the cob. I shall be back to partake of more of your vagabond recollections!

Unknown said...

This must be a wonderful museum. I really enjoy Avedon and Chihuly works. The stair photo is fantastic and so is the Art Deco sculpture. Great post indeed!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Absolutely wonderful post, text and images. I could readily believe that paintings do vibrate in some special way to the language of the artist who painted them. The universe is always vibrating, so why shouldn't the cadences of French, for example, make contact with the pigment on canvas? Did you draw near and whisper in French to them? I hope so. A wonderful story about Colette in NYC: she sees a cat on the sidewalk and sits down to converse with it. At last, she exclaims, someone who speaks French!

Unseen India Tours said...

Beautiful images and nice description !! Great post !!

Vagabonde said...

Dear Friends – Thank you so very much for reading my long post and leaving a comment. I am always delighted when I receive a comment as I know that you spent a lot of your precious time reading my blog. I am very pleased that you enjoyed it.

Vagabonde said...

Chers amis - je vous remercie d’avoir pris le temps de lire mon post et laisser un commentaire. Je suis toujours ravie quand je reçois un commentaire, car je sais que vous avez passé beaucoup de votre temps précieux à lire mon blog. Je suis très heureuse que vous l'avez apprécié.

Cécy said...

Je suis allee voir ce musee en 2005, j'en garde surtout le souvenir de l'escalier et du plafond aux creatures de verres.

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