The Beauty of Los Angeles and why we Love this City/Part 2
June 21, 2019
Here we are! Our second day of an early summer Los Angeles adventure continues. We woke up to the glorious blue sky, a stark contrast to the cold and rain the day before. I sneak from my bed to go running in this beautiful lively neighborhood with people walking dogs, working in gardens, biking, carrying coffees and newspaper, and it is only shortly after 7 AM! I choose to start my run on a Beethoven street, is there a more inspiring street for an early morning run?
Breakfast, clean up, shower, and off we are to the Getty Villa. From our destination we drive to Malibu along the ocean, it is a beautiful ride by the long sprawling beaches with the endless boardwalk whirling off to the midle of the beach and back and to the water.
Once we pass through the gate, climb the hill and see the villa, we are quickly transformed to make-believe Italy.
This beautiful welcoming villa is modeled by the Roman Villa dei Papiri built in AD 76 in Herculaneum. It was one of the most luxurious villas the city had, tragically destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, along with the entire Herculaneum and Pompeii.
Getty bought the property in 1956, the Villa opened in 1974 to house his art collection. The museum went through an extensive restauration from 1997 ($265 mil.) and reopened in a new spleandour in 2006.
Thank you, Getty!!!
But who was Getty? Jean Paul Getty (1892-1976) was a son of lawyer and an oil magnate. Getty junior worked with his father at the oil fields from the time he was 16. He studied at UCS, later Berkley and Oxford from which he graduated with a degree in economics and political science. After the studies he extensively travelled around Europe and fell in love with art. Upon his return he made his first million in Oklahoma oil fields when he was 24, deciding in 1917 to launch on a path of a retired Los Angeles playboy. He lost respect of his father who thought, till his death, that his son will destroy the family business. But Getty came to his senses soon. He became a skilled and wise prospector, buying barren lands here and the Middle East with the hopes of finding oil. And he did, becoming in 1957 the richest man in the world, a man who spoke 7 languages, married five times, became obsessively stingy with his family, but ironically left to the world the biggest gift ever given to the public in a form of his vast art collections and rich foundation. From the time in 1931 when he bought for $1,100 his very first painting of Dutch landscape, he became the most ardent and knowledgeable art collector there was, leaving behind an unprecedented collection and wealth. Getty spent the last years in England where he died in 1976. He had never seen this magnificent villa. That makes me sad!
Those Romans! They knew well how to make homes that feel just fabulous! Breezy, well flowing, eye pleasing, stylish, inspiring, so very practical, and cozy. After Romans "sacked" Greece in 146 BC, they embraced fully the Greek architecture elements of the columns and pediments, and added their own grandeur to it and many practical innovations. (Their is an invention of the arch, cement, a city block, insula, with "high" rises, viaducts, etc.). Our family celebrates them today and even forgive them for all the less complimentary affairs they were involved with! :)
This beautiful Getty Villa is built around an inner courtyard with a narrow pool surrounded by sculptures. Just to stand here and stare at the beauty of symmetry, the charm of the geometry, the beauty of the pool reflecting the elegant sculptures, to observe the employment of an axis on which the villa is built: It allows you to see through the different parts of the villa all the way to the outside. It is satisfying and brings on an amazing liberating feeling of not being trapped in a house. The corridors of the inner yard feature the most beautiful floor mosaics that change patterns attractively, the ceiling corresponds with their frescoes. And here is a charming "triclinium" formerly for three people to recline and refresh...the ceiling offers frescoes full of fruits and vegetable.
The surrounding galleries are display art from Antiquity and pre-Antiquity, Getty's most favorite era.
The villa is two storied, in Romans times the top floor was used as the slaves' living quatters. From one of the second story gallery grand balcony we overlook the biggest and stunning villa's garden (there are several gardens around the house including a herb garden with herbs identical to those grown 2, 000 years ago!). This tremendous garden we see has a long beautiful pool, sculptures, collonade with ornate wall openings that send shadows on the floor creating a "light" carpet. What astonishes us that where the shadows created by the light from the openings will not reach the floor, the Romans put mosaics there alternating then with the shimmering "light" pattens on the floor....you just wonder at their inventiveness, the sense of beauty, and the urge to make every inch inspiring, pleasant, and unique.
And here is a small meditating garden with a large pleasentaly loud fountain and a beautiful, adorable wall mosaic fountain. We sit here, I close my eyes, listening to the gurgling water, the soft chatter around, enjoying the moment here and now... and with my children and my man by my side it equals for a moment in paradise..... Viva harmony, viva inspiration triggered by the urban and garden architecture!
And just a short report about the beautiful collection! The Villa's art specializes in the pre-Greek, Greek and Roman art. Our family favorite was always Cycladic art that along with the Minoan and Mycenean art preceded Antiquity and became its inspiration. The Cycladic civilization (3,300-1,100 BC) dwelled at the small islands off Greece ("kuklos" is a circle, hence "cyclad" as the islands created a circle). The art, that can easily pass for modern art, is incredibly abstracted and simple, yet sends out strong emotions. Something about the simplicity, the symbolicism, the mysterious character makes me stare at them for a long time. There is a certain strength in their character that I pick up and I am sure no one bossed these women around! The mystery why the females statuettes have folded arms, trapezoid heads, and the prominent nose was never solved... The Cycladic men, on the other hand, are usually seated playing harp. It is unbelievable that such a beautiful touching evocative abstraction was done about 5,000 years ago. No wonder Getty was hopping around Europe to buy as many of them as he could.
That concludes a part two of our family LA adventures to be continued.
When I experience something extraordinary I want to shout it to the world and entice others to take the same trip!! So, if you finished reading up to here, know that I had much fun to write these lines with YOU in my mind. So long!