The Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena California is one of my favorite museums. I have been meaning to write about me experiences there but somehow time has just escaped me.
I had gone to see Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose by Francisco de Zurbaran. (1633) …and yes that was marvelous. There is something very sacred about how Zurbaran places each perfectly rendered object on an altar like table and asks us to zoom in and notice all the little details. As we imagine the texture and weight of each object…the fragrance of the orange…the silky softness of the rose. I believe he is telling us to slow down to notice the sacred of the simple pleasures in life.
We continued to drink the atmosphere of the place over a nice cafe lunch outside in the garden.
And just after lunch I wondered over to see the other side of the museum and found another beauty.
The atmosphere of this painting just really pulled me into the scene and took my breath away.
Spend a moment noticing all the details and imagining the temperature of the day and the feel of a cool breeze on your skin as you view a day in the life of a Parisian artist.
Upon my return home, armed with my museum guide, I had more time to pour over it in detail and I enjoyed reading what the experts had to say. I learned that this was a view from the Left Bank that must have been near Renoir’s home.
He must have been this way many times because the bridge in the middle ground is the bridge that young art students would use to travel between their school and the Louvre to copy great masterpieces. Renoir captures a busy afternoon with many people populating the scene. The sight of it makes me think of some of the paintings that Renoir will still yet paint.
At this point he is more concerned with the feeling of the sky and the atmosphere of the day than he is with individual people in detail. He is viewing things from a distance. Holding himself back from society and enjoying the sights and sounds of the day.
I find it remarkable that he even includes the shadows of the people who are passing by on the bridge in the foreground to give the scene a more vivid time of day and feeling of surround sound. art historian Emily A Beeny says it gives it a ” panoramic effect.” She also remarks on his unusual use of the color black as he uses very dark black lines to outline things that just makes the painting want to jump off the canvas.
I have never thought I would like to time travel but if I had a choice, I would like to travel back to this exact time and place a see Renoir painting from his view of the Left Bank.
Other wonderful highlights of our day at that Norton Simon Museum. I hope you will join me for a cup of coffee someday or at least put it on your bucket list.
I hope you have a wonderful week!