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January 04, 2010

And Then There's the Huntington

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

As promised, blogging has been a bit light lately because we're house-sitting in the Los Angeles area -- a little patch of Los Angeles County that intrudes between Pacific Palisades and the Malibu city limits.

We're pretty well situated for seeing a number of interesting places, but there's no avoiding taking to the freeways to travel to sites deemed worth the hassle. Yesterday, it was Long Beach and the Queen Mary ocean liner which has been docked there for more than 40 years. Today we ventured to the Pasadena-San Marino area and the Huntington Library.

As that Wikipedia link indicates, besides a research library crammed with rare books and related items, there are gardens and three art museum buildings. The link to the art is here; drill down for information on the collections.

Although I had heard of the Huntington (and was even reminded of it in a comment to one of my posts here), I never had a clear picture of what it is. Therefore, I was amazed at what I found in the buildings devoted to European and American art.

For instance there were scads (a term of precision measurement, I assure you) of portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds including an iconic Dr Samuel Johnson, and darn near as many by Thomas Gainsborough, including his famous "Blue Boy." Not to mention other portraits by Thomas Lawrence, John Singer Sargent (including a fabulous, flashy one of Pauline Astor), George Romney, William Hogarth, Henry Raeburn (a personal favorite), Cecilia Beaux, Robert Henri and George Bellows.

Interior decoration fans might like seeing displays of furnishings from a Green & Green house, Frank Lloyd Wright furniture, patterns by William Morris' shop and stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones.

Why wasn't I as familiar with the Huntington as I should have been? No doubt it has to do with the fact that late-18th and early 19th century British portrait painting hasn't been a hot art topic for a long time. I'm pretty sure I saw Blue Boy in my college art history class, but the instructor was in a big rush to go on to Turner, Ryder and the French Impressionists.

Too bad for me. I should have experienced the Huntington years ago.



posted by Donald at January 4, 2010


A few other places you might be interested in checking out in L.A.:

Heritage Square--

Los Angeles Walking Tours--

Mostly architecture. I'm sure you already know of the Getty Center in West L.A. and Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena if you're interested in art.

Posted by: Daniel on January 5, 2010 3:34 PM

The Huntington is one of my favorite west coast museums. The grounds are just impeccable. Glad you enjoyed it. Try the Norton-Simon while you're at it. A different experience, but worth the trouble.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on January 5, 2010 10:06 PM

Yes, the Huntington has a lot of pictures that are more famous as portraits than as paintings -- in other words, you always see the Huntington's portrait of Dr. Johnson accompanying articles about Dr. Johnson. It has several more in this category.

Posted by: Steve Sailer on January 5, 2010 10:34 PM

My parents visited the Huntington on their honeymoon -- 1938 -- and chose the Blue Boy and Pinky (they must have hung together) as personal icons of the event. Prints of the pair hung in their bedroom for many years. Not long ago in a magazine I saw an interior pictured, a bedroom -- there were Blue Boy and Pinky side-by-side.

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on January 6, 2010 12:12 AM

Mary -- I don't know what any previous arrangements might have been, but now Blue Boy and Pinkie face one another across the length of a large gallery.

Side-by-side probably does work better at home, though.

Posted by: Donald Pittenger on January 6, 2010 10:45 AM

I always loved the Huntington; my own personal faves were the illuminated manuscripts. And then the gardens ... old Collis P really knew how to spend!

Posted by: Sgt. Mom on January 7, 2010 4:49 PM

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