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Monday, October 24, 2016

The Huntington

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Today it occurred to me that, though I've written about quite a number of major art museums the world over (there's even a whole chapter on them in my book, Art THINK, available at right), there exists a tremendous number of smaller art museums which I and others have often missed. So, I decided I'd create a list and a little guide to seeing and enjoying some of them. Well, the list ran well past the magic "top ten" number and even devoting just one inadequate paragraph to each one I didn't look forward to writing such a long discourse in a single day. So, I've decided to begin yet another "series" of items, each dealing with just one of these more modest (as compared to New York's Met) local art treasures. And for now, I'll limit them to those in the U.S., where most of my readers reside.
Pinkie, by Thomas Lawrence, 1794, and The Blue Boy,
by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1770, hang together at the Huntington.

The portrait is by
Alexandre Cabanel 1882.
Henry Edwards Huntington was an American railroad tycoon and collector of art and rare books. Born in Oneonta, New York, in 1850, Huntington settled in Los Angeles, where he owned the Pacific Electric Railway as well as substantial real estate interests. In addition to being a businessman and art collector, Hunt-ington was a major booster for Los Angeles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Arabella Yarrington "Belle" Huntington (right) was his second wife, and before that the second wife of his uncle, the American railway tycoon and industrialist, Collis P. Huntington. She was once known as the richest woman in America. Even more than her second husband, she was the driving force behind the art collection that is today housed in their former mansion the Huntington Library, located in San Marino, California (north-eastern L.A.) It's where you would go to see Thomas Gainsborough's iconic The Blue Boy or Thomas Lawrence's Pinkie (above). They hang in the same room (below) but not side by side.
The main portrait gallery at the Huntington with The Blue Boy
given the central place of honor. Pinkie hangs off to the left.
The Huntington is actually three museums in one. For artists, there's the European Collection consisting of 18th and 19th century paintings which include The Blue Boy and Pinkie, but also a Madonna and Child by Rogier van der Weyden. Mrs. Huntington was also a supporter of American artists such as Mary Cassatt and her 1897 Breakfast in Bed (below) as well as works by Edward Hopper, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol.

Breakfast in Bed, 1897, Mary Cassatt

The Gutenberg Bible, 1455,the first
book printed using movable type.
For the more literary, there's the Huntington Library with it's centerpiece, one of eleven vellum copies of the Guten-berg Bible known to exist (left) along with over 400,000 rare books, and more than a mil-lion photographs, prints, and other ephemera. Highlights include the Ellesmere manu-script of Chaucer dating from around 1410, as well as letters and manuscripts by George Washington, Thomas Jeffer-son, Benjamin Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. It is the only library in the world with the first two quartos of Hamlet; along side the manuscript of Benjamin Franklin's autobio-graphy. Next to that are first editions and manuscripts from authors such as Jack London, Alexander Pope, Mark Twain, William Blake, and William Wordsworth.

Insider Tip: Make reservations for a spot at the Rose Garden
Tea Room, where you can marvel at three acres of roses
and enjoy finger sandwiches, scones, and a fresh pot of tea.
And finally, if you can broaden the definition of "museum" a little, the third major Huntington asset is it's botanical gardens--a Japanese Garden, a Chinese Garden, and a desert Garden (above). Inside the museum we catch a glimpse of Gilded Era tastes and extravagant opulence as designed by southern California architect, Myron Hunt, in a Mediterranean Revival style. The building dates from the 1920s.

Judging from the length of the grand staircase,
it must rise above a "long storey."


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