French Art Flourishes at this Florida Museum

French Art Flourishes at this Florida Museum

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach celebrates its 80th anniversary, and welcomes a new French director & CEO

An installation view of Georges Braque’s Still Life on Red Tablecloth; Constantin Brancusi’s Mademoiselle Pogany II; Pablo Picasso’s The Red Foulard. Photo: © Nigel Young / Foster + Partners. Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida

The Norton Museum of Art, the cultural heart of Palm Beach County, Florida, has become bigger and better than ever. A recent expansion and updating by London-based architects Foster + Partners includes new galleries, a sculpture garden, an auditorium and expanded classroom space. A new restaurant and adjoining lawn area host outdoor events. Throughout you’ll find a vast array of impressive works in five categories of art: European, American, Chinese, Contemporary, and Photography. And many important French artists are part of the collection, such as Matisse, Bonnard, Dufy, Courbet, Gaugin, Picasso. and Chagall.

Claude Monet

Claude Monet (French, 1840–1926), Gardens of the Villa Moreno, Bordighera, 1884, Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 36 5/8 in. Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, Bequest of R. H. Norton, 53.134

Founded in 1941 by Ralph Hubbard Norton, head of the Acme Steel Company in Chicago, the museum is celebrating its 80th anniversary. For the original museum, Mr. Norton chose architect Marion Sims Wyeth, a New Yorker who studied architecture at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris and worked at Carrère & Hastings in New York. During my last visit to the museum, I admired the charm of those Art Deco motifs on the building’s exterior and how well they communicate with the more contemporary lines of the recent addition. Mr. Norton’s personal art acquisitions were the original core of the budding museum that would grow into an immense collection with many branches of art; the new Norton is now the largest museum in Florida.

Paul Gaughin

Paul Gauguin (French, 1848–1903) Christ in the Garden of Olives, 1889, Oil on canvas, 28 1/2 × 36 in. Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, Gift of Elizabeth C. Norton, 46.5

At the helm of the museum’s future development is new Director and CEO, Ghislain d’Humières. Originally from the Auvergne region of France, his family cultivated his love of art at a young age. After studying art history, he worked at Sotheby’s and Christie’s with a special focus on 18th-century furniture and jewelry. His work at American museums includes the Legion of Honor and de Young in San Francisco, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum at the University of Oklahoma, and the Speed Art Museum in Kentucky. More recently, he worked for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation in Virginia. In addition to the authentic artifacts and restored buildings on display, it’s fascinating to step into this “living museum” where actors in period costume portray historic figures.

Mr. Ghislain d’Humières, Director and CEO, Norton Museum of Art

Mr. d’Humières brings this extensive experience to the Norton, as well as his vision of extending the appreciation of art beyond museum walls. His goal is to create a “hub of creativity and conversation about art within the community,” an admirable initiative to make art education and public events more meaningful and relevant to all.

If you’re ever in South Florida, the Norton Museum of Art is a treasure not to be missed.

The Norton Museum of Art
1450 S. Dixie Highway
West Palm Beach, FL 33401

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Phil Tremo is the France Today Ambassador for Washington DC. Phil has been charmed by France ever since a school trip to the popular Festival d’Avignon. Over the years, he has explored many regions of l’Hexagone, including a recent vacation to Champagne to pick grapes during harvest season - Santé! Back at home in Washington, D.C., he enjoys a variety of French cultural events, including films, concerts, and language classes. He is excited to be representing France Today in the D.C. area.

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  • Martha Sessums
    2021-04-22 19:01:26
    Martha Sessums
    Phil – Thanks for the great article about the Norton Museum. I'll put it on my list of museums to check out for future exhibits to include in my column.