The sprawling Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens for me is always a serendipitous delight; always some unexpected, captivating art pieces, artifacts, exhibits, and plantings, to be discovered and appreciated. And so I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites everywhere.
To be sure, the Huntington is very much more than a museum, especially its ever-changing landscaped setting of native, and exotic plantings. Indeed, one can easily get happily lost in its 120 acres of gardens gracing its 207acre grounds.
By the way, it being winter it is the Camellia season, and time also for the aloes to raise high their torches.
Though once a scholar there, combing its library and marvelous photo collection for my book, “L.A. Lost & Found,” I do not get to the San Marino campus as often as I would like; the traffic these days being daunting.
Nonetheless, I recently set aside a day to go there, before an exhibit entitled Van Gogh & Friends closes on January 2. Forgive me, I know, I’m one of those bourgeois critics still reveling in Impressionism.
The exhibit is engagingly selective, featuring three representative Van Gogh’s on loan from the Hammer, in particular his evocative painting Hospital at Saint-Rémy.
Lending the exhibit context are singular works of his contemporaries, including Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin and Toulouse –Lautrec. And being in the Huntington’s principal art gallery, I had to glimpse for the umpteenth time Thomas Gainsborough’s Blue Boy.
Then it was on to the Huntington’s newest attraction, a modest addition to it American art galleries, designed by architect Frederick Fisher in his functional modern style. I loved the light and space, seamlessly flowing into the existing galleries.
The feature exhibit there on display through March 20 is a selection of photographs by Edward Weston, to illustrate a special edition of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
The photos were taken on what turned out to be a tumultuous cross country trip the aging Weston took with his wife Charis Wilson, cut short by the beginning of World War Two. The subject might be different from Weston’s signature landscapes and nudes, but the genius is still there to be appreciated.
There also were other pleasant surprises: a smartly well stocked and welcoming gift shop, and a refurbished restaurant, with a tasteful and reasonable menu. Both continue the gracious tradition of the Huntington, a Southern California’s treasure.