Bucket List

I lived in LA for nearly two decades before relocating to Turkey and there was a long list of sights and tourist attractions I planned on visiting. But as the weeks and months rolled by the list got longer and my interest was taken with travel opportunities on different shores.

Now that I’m back in LA for a short visit I decided it was time to start crossing a few items off that discarded list, and first up was a trip to Pasadena.

Norton Simon Museum

The Norton Simon Museum of Art in Pasadena is known for its extensive impressionist and post-impressionist painting that includes paintings by Renior, Monet, Degas, Van Gogh, and Picasso to name a few.

Although the Norton Simon has a handful of Van Gogh’s in its permanent collection, among them portraits of his mother, and dramatically different styles of peasant portraits, there was one special painting that incentivized me to finally take a trip to the Norton Simon … his bedroom.

Norton Simon Museum Van Gogh Permanent Collection

Van Gogh’s Bedroom is currently on loan to the Norton Simon Museum from the Art Institute of Chicago, and this bedroom is probably the most recognizable room that has ever been captured on canvas.

Van Gogh’s bedroom was located in the Little Yellow house in Arles in the South of France, and Van Gogh painted it three times between 1888 and 1889.

In a letter Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo, he explained that he wanted to express the tranquility and simplicity of his bedroom using the symbolism of colors.
Van Gogh Art Institute of Chicago

The main difference between the different versions are the stylized way he captured the floor, and although Van Gogh described it to his brother as a faded red, he depicts it differently in each version of this bedroom scene.

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Now that we’ve viewed the second version of Van Gogh’s bedroom at the Norton Simon, we’ve seen all three. We saw the first version of his bedroom in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum, and the third version in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay. They’re all so strikingly similar, and little appears to change in the room over the two-year period.

A disappointment in the bedroom?

Even though Van Gogh never disappoints, the way this work of art was displayed at the Norton Simon was a bit of a let down. All of the other Van Gogh’s were shrouded in ornate gold frames, but the bedroom on loan from Chicago was framed with an off-white frame that looked like it was picked up from a local flea market.

Van Gogh's Bedroom Chicago Art Institute on load to the Norton Simon

Van Gogh’s Bedroom Chicago Art Institute on loan to the Norton Simon

What’s your verdict of this frame?

Something as iconic as Van Gogh’s bedroom deserves a better frame, and it didn’t do it justice. Another criticism was that all of the art was behind glass, so it was difficult to look see the intensity of the brush strokes, which after all, is part of the beauty of Van Gogh’s art.

Red listening to his audio tour

Red listening to his audio tour explaining Sam Francis’ Basel Mural

I’m glad the bedroom enticed us to the Norton Simon, because there were many more great works of art that captured our imagination, and we spent a couple of hours wandering around the Museum listening to the audio tour, before wandering outside for a tour of the sculpture garden, which has a small natural pond that is reminiscent of Monet’s.

This museum is well worth the $12 entrance fee, and I’d recommend paying the $3 extra to rent the audio tour.

Norton Simon Museum

  • 411 W. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91105-1825

A brief look at Pasadena

This area of the city is a few miles north of downtown LA, and has many of the city’s freeway arteries running through it.

Pasadena Location Los Angeles


A trip through Pasadena transports you back to an earlier time in Californian history. Street upon street of historic architecture oozes old money, and has a feeling of Hollywood in its heyday. This area boasts more than 1,000 buildings that appear on the National Register of Historic Places, and it has the largest concentration of Craftsman-style homes.

Craftsman Style Homes in Pasadena

Craftsman Style Homes in Pasadena


A visit to Pasadena is like stepping back in time, and if you want to get off the beaten track from tourist-doused Los Angeles, it’s a worthy destination.