The newly expanded and reconstructed Norton Museum of Art will be unveiled to the public February 9th, with a media preview February 1st. WPTV NewsChannel 5 was able to get an exclusive sneak peek before any of the public’s official first look.
The galleries showcase an enormous variety of work in history, medium and origin, and the museum is selecting works from the permanent collection to display. Among them, a collection of watercolor paintings in the Smith Gallery that were collected by the original founder, Ralph Hubbard Norton.
Ellen Roberts is the Herald & Anne Berkley Smith Curator of American Art for the museum, and she recently wrote a book about Norton. The watercolors are by American and European artists, hanging together in the gallery, which the museum won’t often do.
“They aren’t out very much because they’re very light sensitive, watercolors, and rarely would you see them all out together so it’s really a unique opportunity to see and appreciate what a great collector of watercolor he was,” she said.
Watercolors are often overlooked for oil paintings and sculpture, but they have a life and style all their own.
“It’s a very tough medium to use. You can’t correct it and cover it over in the way that you can oil paintings so it seems very spontaneous and they love that about it too. But it’s actually not. You really need to know what you’re doing to use it,” she said.
Seeing the works in one room is like a “conversation” between the artists and their continents, Roberts says.
“So these artists who always wanted to undercut the academic tradition, purposefully choose watercolor because that’s the way of doing that. But also they like the fact that it’s very expressive. And modernism is all about, in a way, personal expression,” she said.
The watercolor pieces in the collection are extremely well preserved. This particular section of the Norton will remain on display for about 3 months before they are again stored in darkness.
The Norton Museum of Art https://www.norton.org/ will open to the public February 9, 2019. The museum will be free and open to the public Fridays and Saturdays for now.
Watch WPTV NewsChannel 5 on Friday, February 1st for a full preview before the official public opening.