Monday, May 12, 2014

Los Angeles ~ The Huntington Library

When I was a kid I remember rebelling against the thought of going to a "Library" with my parents. By the end of my first visit to The Huntington Library, at age 7, I was completely and utterly hooked. I don't know if this was the first "House and Gardens" I had ever toured with my parents but it was the first that I remember. I remember the Japanese Gardens, the Rose Gardens and the Main House and Sculpture Gardens. It has really grown from there!
 Coming up from the Rose Gardens you see the gorgeous main house. This is the back patio and it overlooks an open area as well as the Rose Gardens. What a lovely place this would be to have had a cocktail party!

 You actually enter the Main House from this dark portico in the front. Hidden in the greenery is this beautiful sculpture...the first one you see in the Sculpture Garden area you can just glimpse in the background of this photo.
 But then you enter the front hallway. This staircase has charmed me since I was a child. The grand columns along with the ironwork of the banister are just SO romantic. There are galleries at the top of these stairs including a beautiful statue of Diana. We were running out of time before the grounds closed so we limited ourselves to the lower galleries only this trip.
 This amazing stained glass window is easily missed on the bottom level of the Main House so make sure to look for it. It's down a side hallway. It is the David Healey Memorial Window manufactured by Morris & Co. (remember to click on the small photo to make it larger to see the details!)
 But this...this is where I head every single time we visit. The main hall gallery in the Main House. This is where I first fell in love with Art. Long before I ever held a camera in my hand, long before I ever considered making it my life, I sat in silent awe in front of these oil paintings and soaked up the wonder of it all. This trip we took our 12 year old for the first time and his reaction was the same. Our hyper 12 year old son sat in awe in front of the painting of "Pinkie" and was just blown away. Lots and lots of questions followed and all of the beauty of the gardens was eclipsed by this one room. 
 And this one...this is the painting I would love to have hanging in my home over all the other paintings I have ever seen in any museum I've ever visited. This beautiful painting by Joshua Reynolds caught my heart. It's just so romantic. The background reminds me of the Huntington itself and the lady pictured was just so different looking from all of those I'd ever seen before or since.
 Jane Fleming, the Countess of Harrington was born in England and painted at the age of 23. There is something about her expression, her hair, even her clothing that is so soft and sweet and romantic. Very different from the very polished, uptight women in most of the paintings of the era. I could, literally, stare at this painting for hours.
 To the right of my favorite painting is Thomas Gainsborough's The Blue Boy. This one, as well as "Pinkie" are what the Huntington Library is known for. People come just to see these two paintings. The Blue Boy is actually a "costume" painting. The artist dressed up a friends son in a costume that dated back 140 years and then painted him in the style of  Van Dyke as an homage to the painter. I'm sure he had no idea how popular this portrait would be in the future!
 Thomas Lawrence's "Pinkie" doesn't have such a happy history. This painting of Sarah Barrett Moulton was painted in 1794. Lawrence painted Sarah's likeness when she was 11 and, sadly, she died of tuberculosis only a few months after the painting was completed. The family had just moved from Jamaica to England for her education. Her younger brother, Edward, was the father of the poetess Elizabeth Barrett Browning. So it is always with a bit of sorrow that we view this painting. I think, perhaps, that is what drew my son to this one, her sad story at such a young age.
 There IS a library in the Main House of the Huntington Library! Adorned with grand chandeliers as well as beautiful furniture (works of art in themselves!) and many books line the shelves.
 The romantic notions in the statues and architecture continues outside the front of the Main House giving you the feeling of a grand Italian Villa rather than a Southern California Mansion.
 But it is this European influence that helps to create such beautiful buildings and grounds at The Huntington Library. (Of course I found another lion...even if he is hiding behind her drapes!)

 There is the Main Library as well. Inside if very clean in design, very modern in design and very very dark! This helps to preserve the valuable books, of course, but made it impossible for me to consider photographing without a tri-pod and long exposures. But the outside is truly lovely on it's own. One of the things I love about the grounds here is that not all of the sculptures are made of white marble. Not that I don't love white marble but the variations are beautiful to see.
 And there is plenty of white marble to be seen. We loved the mermaid fountain, including the "seahorses" at the base!
Our son said the mermaids looked more like belly dancers...I can totally see that! Of course the immature pre-teen boy also giggled at the bare upper bodies of the mermaids as well. But it was the hair that had me fascinated. It falls so realistically. As always, I'm in awe of the movement that can be sculpted into marble.
The Sculpture Gardens are beautiful to tour as well. My only disappointment was that the main fountain, a really ornate piece on it's own, was being fully restored so it was completely covered in scaffolding. However, we had seen this Monk all over the gardens, visiting the same areas we were, so I couldn't resist adding him into our photo-blog as well. 

The Huntington Library is something you shouldn't miss if you are in the Los Angeles area. There is, easily, enough to see and do there to cover 8 full hours. Sadly they are not open 8 full hours a day so you would really need two visits to see everything here. Your best bet for a single day visit is to go on the weekends when it's open from 10:30 to 4:30pm. You wouldn't be disappointed! 

Next Monday we'll move the tour of LA downtown! Hope you can join us!



  1. Pretty helpful information on this library event. I am planning to arrange a students meeting and in search of exemplary Los Angeles venues. Came across some lovely venues and looking forward to book the right venue for this occasion.