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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.