Norton Simon Museum

Yesterday, my friend Mayra and I went to check out the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. It was my first time visiting and I really wanted to go because it was featuring an 1889 self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh, on loan from the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. I saw an advertisement for the exhibit in a red line station last month and I came across that same ad once more during my recent adventure to Chinatown. Since the painting returns back to its home museum in March, I figured that I needed to see it soon!

Norton Simon Museum

Mayra and I got the self-guided audio tour speakers since they were only $3 and I really enjoyed having it around and listening to the history behind many of these paintings. The first room we entered, featuring works of art from the 19th Century, also was the room where Van Gogh’s self-portrait was on display. There’s something about seeing a painting — especially one created by an artist of such prestige — up close that I can’t explain. I guess that’s what art is supposed to do. Art strives to make you feel some kind of emotion, whether you know what it is or not.

Van Gogh 1889 Van Gogh 1889 Ear

Anyway, I had fun pretending to cut my left ear, but it doesn’t seem like Van Gogh was too amused by my shenanigans.

I love that photographs are allowed, not only because it helps me remember what paintings I liked, but because I like to take pictures of the corresponding descriptions. The latter helps me remember the painting titles and other information long after I leave the venue.

There are four main painting galleries divided up by century (14th-16th, 17th & 18th, 19th, and 20th). South and Southeast Asian art is featured in the lower level and there is a sculpture garden in the back of the museum. Here are some notable painting that I liked from the different galleries:

The Traveler (1915) by Liubov Popova

The Traveler by Popova

The Ram’s Head (1925) by Pablo Picasso

The Ram's Head - Picasso

Suicide of Cleopatra (c. 1621) by Guercino

Suicide of Cleopatra - Guercino

Adam and Eve (c. 1530) by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Adam and Eve - Lucas Cranach the Elder

The Adam and Eve painting stood out to me more because I recognized the same painting style from part of the title sequence for Desperate Housewives. The painter, Lucas Cranach the Elder, did a bunch of Adam and Eve paintings actually, many featured in museums throughout Europe.

It was a good first trip even though parking was a pain. There is a free parking lot in front of the museum, but it was packed. Luckily, because it was a Sunday, I was able to find street parking without restrictions, but this was after spending a good amount of time taking a chance with the lot. One non-art related positive are the cubano sandwiches that Mayra and I ordered from the museum cafe. They were actually pretty great and came with a salad on the side. Coupled with their mixed berry lemonade, it was a satisfying museum lunch.

It was nice going to an art museum again, even though it was a little overwhelming. I do recommend checking it out before the Van Gogh is Van Gone. Okay, sorry for that.

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