Today’s post is the last in the series of my California adventure! Read more about what I was up to in Disneyland here and here, running the Disneyland 10K and Half Marathon, and my time in San Diego here and here. And now, on to my final day on the west coast, primarily occupied by a the Getty Villa in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles.
The Getty Villa was completed in 1974 to house the art collection of J. Paul Getty, an oil industrialist, philanthropist, and major collector. I’ve been wanting to visit the Getty since college, and this was my opportunity! I had to make a choice between the Getty Villa and the Getty Center. The Getty Villa now contains the Classical works collected by Getty, who amassed a major array of paintings, sculpture, and objects ranging from ancient Greece and Rome to the Old Masters of Renaissance Europe. Other works are showcased at the Getty Center, which is in Brentwood, Los Angeles, a 40-60 minute drive from the Villa depending on L.A. traffic (which I learned can make the miles go by very slowly). I decided I wanted to see the Villa on this trip because the building itself is a work of art to match what’s inside, and in practical matters, it is closer to where we planned to eat dinner and to LAX, where my flight was departing from on Saturday evening.
The Getty Villa is modeled on the Villa dei Papiri, an Italian villa in the ancient world that was buried when Vesuvius erupted. J. Paul Getty had his architect create a villa based on what was known about the villa through archaeological excavation at the time. Only 30% has been unearthed and analyzed to date, so the rest was built according to guesswork, but it is incredible nonetheless. A major part of what you can experience is in the courtyard garden, which was the centerpiece of many ancient villas, because they were often second homes for city-dwellers. Unfortunately, because of the California drought, the pool and fountains were drained of water.
Covered walkways enclose the courtyard. These are where the ancient villa-dwellers would take their strolls for exercise and digestion. The windows are very elaborate, and when we went on the architectural tour, the docent let us in on the reason why – at sunset, light streaming through would create beautiful patterns on the floor, enhancing the luxurious feel of the villa. Which makes sense, since ancient Romans used their villas as displays of wealth and power.
Inside the actual building, many of the works have a three-digit number located beneath the captions on the description plaques. The iPods are loaded with 1-2 minute talks by Getty docents or other art experts, all given a number that corresponds to one of the works of art. To learn more about a piece, you simply type in the number on the iPod screen and the correct talk begins to play. I typically won’t use the audio guides at museums, but I did here because I know the curators at the Getty are very good (I was very interested in art law while at school and read and wrote about some of them!) The talks were just long enough to give you the scoop, but not so long that you started to wander from the piece you were observing.
The galleries on the first and second floors of the indoor villa are separated into rooms dedicated according to subject, rather than chronology. Galleries include statuary of men, statuary of women, art about athletics, family, grave sites and burial, portrayals of the gods, and mythology from Medusa and the Muses to Theseus and the Twelve Labors of Hercules. I was especially captivated by the last one, with the many depictions of Hercules (or Herakles).
I really enjoyed the visit and only wished I was able to spend more time at the villa. In the evening, ancient plays are performed in a classical theatre! But the Villa closes at 5pm before the evening program begins, and we had to get going anyway, off to grab dinner in Santa Monica before heading to the airport.
We took a short stroll along the beach and the pier in nearby Santa Monica before dinner. Again, I wish I could have experienced the area for longer. There just wasn’t time. I definitely want to come back to Los Angeles for a proper visit in future. So long, Southern California – you know how to leave someone wanting more with your sunsets!
Have you ever visited the Getty Villa or the Getty Center?
Do you enjoy Classical art and architecture?
Any must sees for me on future trips to Southern California?
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