Established in 1952 for the Simon family’s philanthropic endeavors, The Norton Simon Foundation has played a prominent role in the cultural life of Southern California. It was an early supporter of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which opened to the public in 1965, and on whose board Norton Simon served for 14 years. The Foundation’s first art acquisitions were two drawings by Rembrandt van Rijn, purchased in January 1964, followed that April by the acquisition of the inventory of Duveen Brothers, an international art dealer that had played an important role in developing some of the United States’ most distinguished art collections.
In an effort to share the Foundation’s collection with the public, its artworks were lent to museums around the world. From 1965 to 1973 Foundation artworks appeared at such institutions as the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Conn.; Art Institute of Chicago; Grand Palais, Paris; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and National Gallery, London.
In 1974, Norton Simon and a reorganized Board of Trustees assumed management of the Pasadena Art Museum (PAM), taking up administration of its building and oversight of the Museum’s important collection of 20th-century European and American art. As the Foundation’s commitments of loans ended at other institutions, the art collection was shipped to Pasadena to the Museum (which in 1975 was renamed the Norton Simon Museum of Art), where it remains on long-term loan. The Foundation’s last purchase, made in 1985, was a painting by Jean-Baptiste Pater.
Today, the Foundation is a non-operating foundation, organized and operated for educational and charitable purposes. The Foundation focuses on the care, preservation and public exhibition of its art collection, and it provides financial support to the Museum.