Friday, August 5, 2011

J. Paul Getty

A short drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, nestled in the hills of Malibu, sits the Getty Villa. The brainchild and love of American industrialist and oil tycoon J. Paul Getty, the villa rests on 64 acres and houses thousands of Roman, Etruscan and Greek antiquities collected over his lifetime. Author of How to be Rich and a constant presence on Fortune Magazine's rankings of wealthiest Americans in the mid-1900s, J. Paul Getty amassed a fortune during his lifetime. Fortunately for art lovers everywhere, he had a true passion for the finer things in life. Getty dedicated years of time and loads of funds to what is now the world's wealthiest art trust, which he later bestowed upon Southern California, enabling the existence of The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Getty Foundation, The Getty Research and Conservation Institutes, and the Getty Villa.

(image courtesy of Amerikani blog)

Getty was born in 1892 in Minneapolis, and spent his life working to expand his family's petroleum business. Collecting art and antiquities was a passion and favorite pastime of his, and as a result, the Getty Trust includes over 44,000 pieces. Getty felt very strongly that art, particularly antiquities, should be given a strong and accurate context in which to be viewed. The articles should be seen as the original patrons would have seen them. In the case of his particular collection, context called for the construction of a Roman home.

Based entirely upon a partially excavated, 1st-century Roman villa, Getty provided that context for his namesake's collection in the form of his Malibu villa. The Villa dei Papiri in Herculaneum, Italy, was buried when Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. It provided the partial model for Getty's plans. As most of it remains to be excavated, the architects of Getty's villa pulled in aspects of other typical Roman country houses of the time into their design. Every last detail is true to the time and luxurious lifestyle of 1st-century Romans, down to the coffered ceilings, lighting fixtures, and open-air construction providing nature's own air-conditioning, (and proof that the Romans were brilliant). Every herb in the herb gardens is drawn from what would have been found in the Mediterranean at that time, and the aromas waft throughout the grounds.

(image courtesy of Modern Art Notes blog)

Getty also believed that the public should have access to his collection free of charge, and thus the only thing to keep in mind is the $15 parking fee per car, (free for all evening events), and a simple online reservation made in advance of your visit. Having gone at 11 on a Monday in July, the crowds must have been smaller than at peak times, but were very manageable. Plan to wander for several hours at a minimum, and hope for sunny weather for the best views of the Pacific.

(image courtesy of Digital Apoptosis)

Getty lived the latter half of his life in Britain, and unfortunately, never had the opportunity to make it back across the pond to see his villa come to life.

(image courtesy of Art Net)

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