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Day 1, Dec 23: Huntington Library

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Day 1 of vacation. I’m so happy to be off I can’t seem to remember what day it is. I kept thinking it was Friday; Dan kept thinking it was Sunday. Oh well. (It’s a Saturday, by the way.) As long as we know when to check out I guess that’s all that matters.

We went down for breakfast when it opened at 7am, and I was happy to see it was more normal seating than my dining experience the night before, as shown below. We got a nice little table in the corner. Food was typical breakfast fare, nothing special. But free and satisfying, so that definitely counts.

We left the hotel about 9:20. We stopped first at a CVS to get me some cough syrup and cough drops, a lingering symptom from being pretty sick a couple of weeks ago. Then a quick stop at an Enterprise Rental to get Dan added as a driver, because that could only be done in person.

Last year when we were here we’d spent some time in the Los Feliz area around the two different places his family had lived for the first few years after moving here from Korea in 1978 and Dan was 9. When he was a sophomore in high school, they moved to Glendale, so we stopped by that apartment next which was just a few blocks from Enterprise. It’s always fun and interesting to return to old stomping grounds.

Pasadena is just about 8 miles east of Glendale, we moved in that direction next. The big stop of the day is the Huntington Library, technically in San Marino just south of Pasadena. Henry Edwards Huntington was a railroad magnate, largely responsible for building the railroad system in Southern California, and who was also an extensive collector of books, art, and botanical items. His wife, Arabella, was an art collector and expert in her own right, and advised him about art collecting before they we married. The bought a 1700 acre ranch in San Marino. After their deaths, that estate and its holding became the foundation for the Huntington Library which, in addition to being a museum attraction for the public, is still used by up to 2000 scholars each year as a research facility because of it’s rare collection of books especially.

It’s not much to look at as you first approach, above. Tickets were pricey as these things go, $29 each. We kept commenting on that as we toured; the maintenance on this place must be pretty costly. We originally were only going to stay here until lunch, then leave for lunch and go to the Norton Simon museum in Pasadena in the afternoon. There was so much to do here we decided to get our money’s worth, eat lunch here, and not rush to check everything out. We never made it to the other museum.

The initial part of the complex is the research and education center, a collection of buildings (which we skipped) around a long courtyard. This garden is at the end of it. The Library exhibits are to the right of this and that’s where we headed first. We were both surprised by what we found here. A few times we were like “shouldn’t this be somewhere else?”

This is an original publication, from 1623, of what’s referred to as Shakespeare’s “first folio”, the first publication of  “authoritative versions of thirty-six of his works that form the basis for all later editions. Half of them, including Macbeth, Julius Caesar, Twelfth night, As You Like It, and The Tempest, did not appear previously in print. Without this edition, many of his plays might not have survived.”

Above: an original Huckleberry Finn, from 1889. Below: Jack London’s original manuscript from The Call of the Wild.

 

A fountain as seen from one of library windows.

 

An original print of The Birds of America, John James Audubon’s (think Audubon Society) first attempt in the early part of the 1800’s to identify all 435 species then known in the United States. I asked Dan to stand in front of the display for scale, but I’m still not sure it captured how big this book is.

This didn’t photograph well, but is an original manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from the early 1400’s.

At least our 3rd “we can’t believe this is here,” a Guttenberg bible. I’d seen one on my very first trip to Europe in March of 2013. Dan was in Mainz, Germany, at a conference for work and I met him there, so my first day of exploration was in Mainz, a city many if not most have never heard of. But it is where Guttenberg lived and where he invented the printing press, choosing the bible as his first product in 1455. He only printed 175 of these total, and there are only 48 of them left in the world. And now I’ve seen two of them.

The European art collection is housed in the mansion the Huntington’s used to live in. We enjoy museums like this – and we’ve lost count of how many mansions/palaces we’ve been in that have been turned into museums – because even if you don’t care for the art, the building itself is worth seeing.

Many of these rooms are still as they furnished them when they lived here from their extensive personal collections. I think the room above was called the parlor, and the room below obviously the dining room. Each room had a touch display that gave you as much detail as you wanted about every piece in it, whether it was art on the wall, the items on the mantel, or the furniture. Arabella loved French furniture and the house is full of it.

 

Huntington’s European art collection was primarily British, an aspect we were intrigued by because we’d never seen such a large collection of British art before, not even when we were in London. European museums seem to have a huge focus on French, Dutch, and Italian art, but you don’t see much British, at least we haven’t. But we did today, and I was super thrilled to discover this. I literally gasped when I saw it. If any of my siblings are reading this, they will instantly recognize this – the Blue Boy – because we had a print of it hanging in the house we grew up in. I haven’t thought of it in years and will admit it never occurred to me to wonder about the original. But here it is, painted in 1770 by Thomas Gainsborough. I couldn’t get a decent shot of this without the glare from the light above, but it’s pretty stunning in person and close up. It’s considered a masterpiece because of the way he was able to show the satin, the many textures of the color blue, and the gold trim around the tunic is like glitter. It’s been very well maintained and looks terrific. The sale of it to the Huntington’s in 1921 at $700,000 set a record for the time as the most expensive art transaction in history. 

I don’t remember anything about this just thought it was pretty.

 

Dan was looking at this piece when I came up behind him and said ‘hey, that looks like Salisbury Cathedral.” And that’s because it is. We were there last summer, and get a kick out of seeing places we’ve been in paintings in museums. Sort of the opposite happened the first time we walked into St. Mark’s Square in Venice in 2016 – we’d seen it so many times in museum paintings we felt like wee were walking into a painting when we finally came across it in real life. We decided today after seeing some more that Venice in general is the place we’ve seen the most paintings of in museums.

 

Above: the beginnings of the most extensive rose garden we’ve ever come across, continued in the two photos below.

 

 

From there we went to the Japanese gardens, which were huge and breathtaking. This was when are discussion of costly maintenance really kicked in.

 

 

 

Dry Landscape Garden

 

The first of two significant bonsai collections. Bonsai are beautiful but ridiculously high maintenance.

This was the 2nd bonsai collection up the hill from the first, in an enclosed garden with a water feature in the middle. I liked this one much better. The display below was in the corner to my left.

We came across a little stream that had a great sound which I tried to capture here. Probably not the best quality but you’ll get the idea. It’s pretty though!

A Japanese tea room.

A little bamboo tunnel on our way to the Chinese gardens, below, where we ultimately stopped for lunch.

 

There was a little Chinese place by the gardens and we sat in a structure that was mostly windows. The food wasn’t bad – usually a 50/50 chance at museums. Dan had the congee (top bowl) and I had a beef noodle dish.

 

After lunch we went to the Boone Gallery, which housed temporary exhibits. Photos weren’t allowed, but the topic was indigenous American art from the 1400s to early 1800’s. It was actually pretty interesting.

We went to the American Gallery next. The painting above is by Guy Rose, an American Impressionist from San Gabriel, California. He lived in Paris for awhile and Claude Monet was his mentor. It shows.

Above and below: they had a decent collection of Favrile Glass, a type of iridescent art glass developed by Louis Tiffany. From the late 1800’s.

 

Dan liked this piece, The Locomotive by Reginald Marsh, 1935. He was commissioned to paint murals for the post office building in Washington DC and wanted to do them fresco, which is a style that paints directly onto wet plaster. He used this painting to practice and master the process. This was lifted from his studio wall, and is unique in that it shows different textures based on the smoothness, or not, of the plaster he was painting on. The variations in surface texture create a sense of atmosphere and depth.

Quilts are particular to American art and there’s generally a decent collection of them in galleries which focus on such. This was no exception.
By Gilbert Stuart, 1797. Look familiar? This painting of George Washington served as the basis for the engraving used on the one dollar bill.
Council of War, by John Rogers, 1868. Lincoln with General Ulysses Grant (cleaning his glasses) and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as they discuss Civil War plans.
On our way to the botanical gardens, in the conservatory building in the rear of this photo. But the point of it is Dan in front mimicking the statue in the middle of the garden 🙂
We left around 3:30 I guess, having spent about  5.5 hours there. That’s quite a stop for one place even for us, but it went by pretty fast and we enjoyed it, and definitely felt like we got our money’s worth! We went back to our room and relaxed until we had to go out again to meet Dan’s family for dinner in Koreatown. I only took one photo below, which included all of the side dishes, which Dan claims is the best part of Korean food anyway. The dish to the left is Korean BBQ beef which was excellent.

 

I asked about taking a group photo but no one was in the mood. Oh well. We went back to our room and I for one was in bed by 9:15. I had managed to get the photos uploaded for this before dinner yesterday, and started to write last night but just couldn’t do it. Decided that would work much better after a good night’s sleep, which I got, and some coffee, which I’ve had. Ready for another day.

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