Thursday, February 2, 2012

Norton Simon (February 2, 1907)

The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is one of my favorite museums anywhere. The gardens, interior spaces, and collections -- especially the Asian art and Impressionists -- are all splendid, and the size makes it very accessible. As I understand it, the collections very much reflect the taste and actions of the founder, Norton Simon and his wife Jennifer Jones (the actress).

Simon came from a West-Coast Jewish family. However, his Jewish background seems to have little or nothing to do with either his great success as a businessman or as an art collector. According to the museum website, "In 1929, at the start of the Great Depression, Norton Simon invested $7,000 in a floundering juice bottling company. He eventually turned his investment into the highly prosperous Hunt Foods, Inc. ... He built Norton Simon Inc., a multi-industry, multinational corporation that included Hunt-Wesson Foods, McCall’s Publishing, Saturday Review of Literature, Canada Dry Corporation, Max Factor cosmetics, and Avis Car Rental."

I place Norton Simon on my hero list because I really respect his accomplishment in developing the Norton Simon Museum. The museum website offers this quote, which I quite like:
"I am not essentially a religious person, but my feeling about a museum is that it can serve as a substitute for a house of worship. It is a place to respect man's creativity and to sense a continuity with the past. It is a place to give us a feeling of the dignity of man and to help us to strive towards our own creativity and fulfillment. - Norton Simon, 1974"

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