Pasadena California: Review of The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, situated in San Marino, California is a private non-profit institution founded by Henry E. Huntington in 1919. It is the home of a delightful collection of fine art and a rare and extraordinary collection of books and manuscripts. The Botanical Gardens cover one hundred and fifty acres of land with a most breathtaking and scenic environment including the appealing and fragrant Rose Garden, the awesome Japanese Garden and the intriguing Desert Garden.

The “Blue Boy”, a most famous art piece, oil on canvas, done by Thomas Gainsborough, c.1770 is of the Rococo Style. It is of Master Jonathan Buttal, who was the son of a friend of Gainsborough, a hardware merchant. The young boy, in blue stately apparel wears a demeanor of self-confidence. He looks directly at his spectators with an air of self-assured assertiveness and has a proud stance with a hint of boyish innocence. The artist deftly depicts the intricate detail of his apparel, collar, cuffs and trousers. There is an almost flawless reproduction of the flow of the fabric. Our young Master, Jonathan, wears stockings on his feet and his shoes with satin bows that render an air of a gentleman or young man of fine stock. There is a soft tonal quality to Master Jonathan’s facial features and a haunting reproduction of his eyes. His hair has a soft baby-like texture, which again draws attention to his youthfulness. As characteristic of the Rococo style, Gainsborough’s painting is graceful, light and cheerful. There is harmony in the description of young Jonathan, who is set boldly against a most haunting background of greenery and vast gray skies. The dignified young man is the epitome of grace, decorum and elegance. He is the very essence of charm.

I found the oil on canvas, painting “View on the Stour near Dedham” done by John Constable, 1822, to be a natural male dominated scene. It is a late realist art piece. Some men are engaged in the everyday activity of fishing while a lady looks on from afar standing alone on a bridge. Constable has an astounding ability of capturing the beauty of nature and the detail of landscapes. As characteristic of Constable’s style, there is a facet of harmony of the elements of earth, sky and water. His use of color, tones and blending, ligh and shadowing is exceptional. He ably contrasts the greeness of trees and shrubbery with the serenity of white and blue cloudy skies. His figures seem frozen in time and lack the photo-realism of some works of the Contemporary genre. Constable’s painting spans a wide area and he meticulously depicts nature in all her glorious magnificence.

The “Young Knitter Asleep” by Jean Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805) is oil on canvas completed in 1755. A young lady falls asleep while in the process of knitting, witha straw basket draped over her arm and fabric on her lap. She wears a peaceful, satisfied and serene look of slumber. Her rosy cheeks, small well-defined hands and almost baby like features have the quality of realness. Greuze exquisitely captures the folds and fall of the fabric, its very movement. She has an almost youthful appearance with childlike contentment and innocence. She wears a white bonnet with blue ribbon and a blue frock with striped collar. The artist effectively draws our attention to our young knitter by using a rather dark background, which shifts our focus or draws our attention to her. The artist’s ability to recreate the fabric, its rich bold color and shimmering quality is highly commendable and expertly done.

A review on the Huntington Library would be incomplete without mention of the exotic Botanical Gardens, wondrous landscape and intriguing pieces of sculpture that grace the acres of land. I was completely overwhelmed by the beauty and sweet fragrance emanating from the Rose Garden including species as the Sexy Rexy, Risque, Lanvin, Pink Parfait and Rodeo Drive. The Japanese Garden is the home of the water lilies, spectacular Koi fish and the Dry Garden. The Bonsai trees of the Japanese Gardens were amazing works of nature created with some human ingenuity. The Desert Gardens with its wide variety of cacti and the Tropical Gardens with its lush shrubs, vines and trees were delightful to view and breathtaking to behold.

The Huntington has an exquisite collection of antique room settings, Chippendale room style and archaic furniture. The elaborate carvings on the wall, ornate architectural design, floral patterns, magnificent columns, drapery and winding staircase provided the building with an air of elegance and palatial splendor.

Many outstanding pieces of sculpture, medieval statues, and Gothic and Mythological figues are well placed about the grounds. Beautiful fountains grace the courtyards while the well-tended lawn is the home of attractive flowerbeds bursting with color and sweet scent.

A walk through the Huntington Library opened a door of discovery to me. It was an exhilarating feeling being in the presence of such works of historical significance exhibited as the Gutenberg Bible on vellum, original manuscripts by Shakespeare and Whitman and Audubon’s Birds of America.

My daylong visit to the Huntington was unforgettable, peaceful, and evoked feelings of nostalgia especially when I walked throught the Tropical Garden and saw many trees and plants that reminded me of my island home, Trinidad and Tobago. This was an educational experience with the added benefit of a most serene environment and diverse possibilities offer the avoidance of boredom.

The Huntington, its Eden like gardens, ambience, serenity and wealth of literary, artistic, sculptural and architectural collections overwhelmingly surpassed my expectations. I was impressed with the pieces of art in the Modernist category while the atmosphere, surroundings and nature trail were well worth my effort. My visit to the Huntington was totally enjoyable and unforgettable. It was indeed a day well spent, with a retreat like environment where I felt one with nature. I would highly recommend the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens as a wonderful place to spend a day, go on a date or simply to enjoy the beauties of nature.

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