Le Flâneur Bleu

Jonathan Myles-Lea is a British artist and photographer. He also lectures about art, architecture and the history of gardens.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

The Huntington Library Art Collection & Botanic Gardens

'The Huntington', as those who know it well tend to refer to it, is no ordinary art gallery or botanical garden. It is one of the most famous collections-based educational and research institutions not just in America, but in the world. It was established by Henry E. Huntington and it is housed not only in the large residence formally occupied by Henry and his wife Arabella, but also in numerous other purpose-built museums and halls. The property also includes approximately 120 acres of specialised botanical gardens including a breathtaking Japanese Garden, a very extensive Desert Garden, and a absolutely extraordinary Chinese Garden which was constructed in 2008 at a cost of more than $18M.

Please click on the images to enlarge.

Henry Edwards Huntington was one of the four biggest railroad tycoons of 19th century California. In 1913 he married his uncle's widow, moved to Los Angeles and bought a property of 500 acres then known as the San Marino Ranch. Encouraged by his wife Arabella, and with the assistance of art experts, he set about building up an enormous collection at probably the very best time to embark upon such a project. Owners of art and antiquities in Europe would sell almost anything after the 1914-18 war, and by 1927 Huntington had amassed the largest collection of British 18th century portraits outside England. In accordance with his Will the collection was opened to the public in 1928. At the time it was worth $50M.

Along with the vast art collection, the library is perhaps the most famous aspect of the Huntington. It contains a substantial collection of rare books and manuscripts, concentrated in the fields of British and American history, literature, art, and the history of science. Spanning from the 11th century to the present, the library's holdings contain 7 million items, over 400,000 rare books, and over a million photographs, prints, and other ephemera.

The Huntington art collection consists of mainly British and French 18th and 19th century paintings and sculpture. It also includes selections from the Arabella D. Huntington Memorial Art Collection, which contains Italian and Northern Renaissance paintings and a spectacular collection of 18th-century French tapestries, porcelain, and furniture.

The Huntington did not start collecting American Art until 1979 when it received a gift of 50 paintings from the Virginia Steele Scott Foundation.

Excitingly, in 1999, the Huntington acquired the collection of materials relating to the English Arts and Crafts artist and designer William Morris amassed by Sanford and Helen Berger, comprising stained glass, wallpaper, textiles, embroidery, drawings, ceramics, more than 2,000 books, original woodblock prints, and the complete archives of Morris's decorative arts firm Morris & Co. and its predecessor Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co. 

In 2005, actor Steve Martin gave $1 million to the Huntington to support exhibitions and acquisitions of American art.

The Huntington's botanical gardens cover 120 acres and showcase plants from around the world. The gardens are divided into more than a dozen themes, including the Australian Garden, Camellia Collection, Children's Garden, Desert Garden, Herb Garden, Japanese Garden, Lily Ponds, North Vista, Palm Garden, Rose Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, Subtropical and Jungle Garden, and the Chinese Garden.

This post includes some of the photographs I took at The Huntington during my first visit on Sunday April 6th, 2014. It will be the first of many more visits and at some point I hope to be able to give a lecture there about English landscape painting and the role I have played in that tradition during the late 20th century and early 21st century. To see my English landscapes please visit: www.myles-lea.com

Please click on the images to enlarge.

The main website for the Huntington is: http://www.huntington.org

For opening hours visit: http://www.huntington.org/WebAssets/Templates/content.aspx?id=302