Norton Museum of Art
© Courtesy of Norton Museum of Art

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida was founded in 1941 and has since become internationally renowned for its impressive permanent collection. Even the Museum’s structure, designed by the distinguished Marion Sims Wyeth, of Wyeth & King, is a fine example of late Art Deco/ Neo-Classical architecture.

The museum has grown to become a significant cultural and artistic institution in Florida, not only for its permanent collections, but for its temporary exhibitions, as well. In addition to admiring the 7,000+ piece collection, including masterpieces from Monet, Picasso, Pollock and O’Keefe, visitors can also participate in special events, lectures, tours and programs for adults and children alike.

The Museum’s founders, Ralph Hubbard Norton (1875-1953) and his wife Elizabeth Calhoun Norton (1881-1947), were active art collectors and enthusiasts at the turn of the twentieth century. Mr. Norton, originally a steel industrialist from Chicago, began to spend his winters in Palm Beach beginning in the mid-1930s.

Having already developed a sizeable collection of both painting and sculpture by that point in time, the Nortons began to explore the potential for sharing their passion with the public. In 1940, work began on the Norton Gallery and School of Art in West Palm Beach. It grew in both reputation and collection, with acquisitions continuing after Norton’s death in 1953, including significant contributions to the American collection. Today, decades later, and having recently completed a $60 million renovation and expansion, the Norton Museum of Art continues to serve the over 100,000 visitors it receives annually.

More vacation ideas: Things to Do in Portland, Bar Harbor, Destin, Houston, Newport Beach

» Permanent Collections

Permanent Collections  

The permanent collections at the museum span not only the globe, but many centuries and mediums, as well. These include the American Collection, the Chinese Collection, the Contemporary Collection, the European Collection and the Photography Collections. These comprise the bulk of work at the museum, providing something for every visitor’s preference or interest.

American Art

Museum founder Ralph Norton had a particular interest in American Art, wanting to highlight the art and history of his time. The Museum’s American Art collection reflects this passion, with over 1,000 works from American artists including Georgia O’Keefe, Charles Demuth, John Marin and Robert Motherwell. The works date from the mid-1700s to the mid-1900s, creating a journey through American history from the Revolution through to the modern era.

Next read: West Palm Beach to Miami

The collection includes not only a vast number of paintings, but significant sculptural works as well, including a Paul Manship piece, Diana and Actaeon, which was commissioned for the façade of the building. The collection continued to grow after Norton’s death, with a significant gift of 19 works from Elsie and Marvin Dekelboum as recently as 2005.

Chinese Art

With more than 600 pieces spanning several centuries, the Chinese Collection at the Norton Museum of Art is a robust exhibit. Originally just 125 works, the collection has grown considerably through the years. One of the most noteworthy pieces, a gift from Mr. Norton, is a bronze cast Ritual Wine Pouring Vessel dating back 3200 years. More recent works in the exhibit include hardstone carvings from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Other contributions to the collection include art donations and a gallery for the rotating displays, sponsored by John and Heidi Niblack. These works contributed to the overall collection, creating an expansive exhibit for visitors to enjoy.

Contemporary Art

Showcasing a wide array of different styles, shapes, textures and mediums, the Contemporary Art collection at the Museum creates a modern visual adventure. These works reflect not only the artists themselves, but also the time in which they live. Many donations of funds and works to the collection have helped it to grow and expand over the years, and include works by Lucio Fontana, Yinka Shonibare and Nick Cave. The growth of the collection over the years reflects not only the enthusiasm for Contemporary art by founder Ralph Norton, but also the generosity of patrons.

European Art

Works in the Museum’s European collection span centuries, from 1450 all the way through to the modernism of the twentieth century. The collection includes works from such seminal artists as Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso, while also recognizing great classical masters Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony Van Dyke. With pieces representing such a vast time frame, and from such influential artists, the collection covers every significant artistic movement from the Renaissance through to Modernism. Showcasing paintings as well as sculpture, the exhibit is a highlight as much for art history amateurs as it is for aficionados.


With more than 3,000 photographs in the collection, the Norton Museum of Art houses a thorough representation of this medium. The exhibit emphasizes contemporary international work, with examples from photographers including Tacita Dean, Jeff Wall and Hiroshi Sugimoto. It also includes work by masters of European Modernism such as August Sander and Alexander Rodchenko. Covering nearly every imaginable subject in black, white and Technicolor, the Photography Collection peaks the mind and imagination.

More quick trip ideas: Romantic Weekend Getaways in Ohio, Romantic Weekend Getaways in California, Best East Coast beaches

» Temporary Exhibitions

Temporary Exhibitions  

In addition to its permanent collection, the Museum also features changing or temporary exhibitions. These fleeting showings enable the Museum to continue to evolve, always offering something new and intriguing to its guests. Past exhibitions include Women Modernists in New York; Imaging Eden: Photographers Discover the Everglades; Monet’s Nympheas 1914-1917 (Water Lilies); Annie Leibovitz; and many, many more. Exhibitions typically change every few months and cover every manner of topic, idea and art. Some temporary installations are fitted right into the museum structure, seemingly permanent artwork built into the very building, but gone in just a few months. Information on upcoming exhibitions can be found at the Museum website.

Programs and Events

The Norton Museum of Art is a year round hub of activities and experiences. On-going programs create opportunities for unique and enriching experiences for all. The Art After Dark program takes place weekly after normal Museum hours, offering attendees a mixture of art, music, film and food. Activities can include docent led tours, workshops, and demonstrations of art, culture and entertainment. The Family Studio at the Museum creates an enriching and interactive environment for families with children. These often comprise weekly events on a topic such as a popular children’s book or do-it-yourself art workshops.

The offerings are not just for kids, however, with an extensive range of adult programming, such as A Close Look, which offers in depth discussion about a masterpiece at the museum. The Exhibition Lecture Series features a talk from a scholar, artist or curator specifically related to a special or temporary exhibition. Annual summer camp tours are available throughout the summer months, for campers ages six to twelve. The 50 minute programs take kids on a detective adventure through the museum. Public and private tours are also available for individuals, schools, or colleges.

Events at the Museum vary throughout the year. The Live at Norton event series brings art and music together with classical and jazz music performances at the Museum. The annual Chinese Moon Festival is a yearly celebration of the Chinese collection. It typically includes performances by the Florida State Chinese Music Ensemble and Chinese painting demonstrations. Traditional Chinese mooncakes and tea are typically served to engage all the senses in the experience. The Annual Gala is a yearly fundraising event and ball at the Museum. Other events vary and can include concerts, jewelry shows and more.

Fun long weekend getaway ideas: Weekend getaways from Seattle, Romantic Weekend Getaways in North Carolina, Romantic weekend getaways in CT

» Plan Your Visit

Plan Your Visit  

The Norton Museum of Art is located in the downtown West Palm Beach area, with parking access across the street. Museum hours vary, are slightly atypical from most museums and as such, visitors are advised to check the website prior to arrival. Various programs and events are held throughout the week and can vary with time and seasonality, but provide a more enriching experiences for guests. The Museum website provides additional information on these activities. Public tours are also available throughout the day and are included with Museum admission.


More than just exhibitions and collections, the Norton Museum of Art also engages in art outreach and education. Its Progressive Afterschool Art Community Education (PACE) program, creates and provides opportunities for children in underserved communities to experience art and culture. PACE works with partners such as the Boys and Girls Club, who host the program. Through PACE, children create art projects, tour the Museum, and learn about not only visual art, but art history, music and literature, as well. The program also provides structure to the children’s live through safe and consistent delivery.

In addition to the PACE program, the Museum also engages in showcasing and promoting children’s art. Through the Bernard and Chris Marden Community Gallery, the Museum displays six student art exhibitions each year. Artists from all grade levels are represented, and typically include works from two dozen students. The exhibit also showcases works from the Museum’s summer interns. This community gallery boosts confidence and self-esteem of young artists, who gleefully experience seeing their work framed, mounted and appreciated on the Museum’s walls.

Back to: Best Things to Do in West Palm Beach, Florida.

1451 S. Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach, FL 33401, Phone: 561-832-5196

More weekend getaways: Romantic weekend getaways in Colorado, Weekend Getaways from San Diego, Romantic Weekend Getaways in Virginia, San Diego day trips

Things to Do in West Palm Beach, FL: Norton Museum of Art