The other day, I got to spend the day in one of my favorite ways: wandering the many rooms of an art museum. Not just any art museum, but LA’s J. Paul Getty Museum, which is perched in the hills off the 405 overlooking a spectacular view of Los Angeles and Southern California’s rugged landscape and coastline.
LA and Orange County offer more than enough tourist attractions to keep visitors busy for weeks but, for art and culture enthusiasts, a trip to the Getty is a must when exploring Southern California.
Heeding warnings of crowds and difficult parking, my companion and I chose to visit on a weekday in the off-season. We arrived at the museum when it opened at 10 am and had no trouble parking at all (reservations are no longer required, as they were when the complex first opened). Other than a few school groups, the crowd was minimal making it easy to navigate through the five pavilions that house permanent collections as well as changing exhibitions.
We started the day with a 45-minute tour highlighting some of the most notable pieces on display. The tour included a stop at an incredibly realistic Spanish Baroque wood-carved statue of St. Ginés de la Jara from the 17th century. We also heard trivia about Rigaud’s 1701 state portrait of King Louis XIV, which the king loved so much he insisted that it be copied several times for each of his chateaux. J. Paul Getty purchased the third copy of this portrait for a mere $500 or $600 in the 1970s; the painting is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars or more today and partner copies hang in the Louvre and Versailles.
The tour ended in front of van Gogh’s “Irises” in my favorite room of the whole museum. I was happy to see most of the major Impressionists and early 20th century French experimenters represented. I always feel like I’m visiting old friends when I see one of Cézanne’s still lifes or pieces from Monet’s many series of water lilies, wheatstacks or the Rouen Cathedral. The Getty’s cathedral study is not currently on display but be sure to see “Sunrise,” a companion piece to Monet’s 1872 “Impression: Sunrise,” which is considered the birth of Impressionism. Also, new favorite of mine is “The Rue Mosnier with Flags,” which Manet painted in 1878 from his second-floor window overlooking the street. All of these can be seen in the same room on the second floor of the West Pavilion.
For one most content when wandering the halls of the d’Orsay, the gardens of the Rodin Museum or the basement of Musée Marmottan in Paris, a trip to the Getty was long overdue. By the way, admission is free—the way it should be.