Observing the Observer

While visiting the Norton Simon Museum today I came upon a sculpture, which I immediately fell in love with, and I spent some time looking at it from all angles. I bent down to look at it from a lower angle. I walked around and looked at it closely and then from a few steps back, and then from afar. I studied it from the left and right side. I learned that it was sculpted by Wilhelm Lehmbruck, a German artist who lived a short life (1881-1919). The piece is a detail from a larger work titled “Kneeling Woman” and is titled “The Head of Kneeling Woman.” Just finding one piece that entrances me like this makes a visit to a museum totally enjoyable.

Norton Simon 5

Norton Simon 6

A few minutes later, walking through the galleries, I came upon a man who clearly had found a painting that had absorbed his interest. I had walked into the gallery to see the same painting. As I approached the painting, I suddenly realized I was more interested in the observer. I stepped back and casually placed the camera to my eye as if I was interested in taking a picture of the painting, and I took this picture.

Norton Simon 1


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As you can see, I don’t think the guard is used to people getting so absorbed. He looks concerned, doesn’t he?

Norton Simon 2

I’m so glad the guard didn’t intimidate the man. In fact, I don’t think he even noticed the guard.

Norton Simon 3

Seeing this observant man gave me such pleasure (I think as much pleasure as he was having observing the painting). By the way, the title of the painting is “Still Life with Lemons, Oranges and a Rose,” painted in 1633 by the Spanish artist Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664).

Just before leaving the museum, I looked over the wall to the floor below. Look what I saw 🙂

Norton Simon 7


  • Carolyn Goodart

    I love that museum. It reminded me of the film with Sister Wendy. Your story reminds me of Bill’s nephew Stroller. When he was 7 or 8 his mother visited, and we all went to LACMA together. But before going in, we popped in the La Brea Tar Pits Observation building. Stroller climbed right into the tar pit! The security guard made us leave, and during our tour of LACMA, his mother gripped his hand tightly the entire time. Then, later in life, when he was grown, we all went to the Malibu Getty and soon alarmed a security guard there! It is always thrilling to accompany Stroller anywhere! He means only well.

    • TwointheMiddle

      What in the world did Stroller do at the Getty Villa in Malibu to alarm a security guard?! It sounds a bit nerve-wracking to be with Stroller. But, then again, maybe someone named Stroller is destined to stroll…

    • TwointheMiddle

      Sue, You are probably right 🙂 However, later on, I realized that someone might have been observing me observe the sculpture for so long and from every angle. I never thought what I might look like having such a good time “looking” until I had such a good time seeing someone else doing it in such an expressive manner.

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