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Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens

Ann Weaver Norton, b 1905- d 1982
253 Barcelona Road at the corner of Flagler Drive , West Palm Beach , FL 33401 - view on Google Maps
561-832-5328
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“I have tried to create a mood, combining the sculptures with the trees, planting and birds, water also helps……I hope that visitors here, even those from Tibet, who come here from time to time will find this sculpture-nature garden a deep refreshing sanctuary.”
—Ann Weaver Norton
The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens was established in 1977 by resident sculptor Ann Weaver Norton. Within an urban sanctuary of two acres, the compound comprises Norton’s historic home, exhibition galleries, artist studio, nine monumental sculptures and rare palm and cycad gardens for public enjoyment as a natural green oasis.

ABOUT

She talked of her garden as a “rather lovely property, wild, yet in the center of a city, I envisioned yet larger sculptures in the wilderness”. “I have tried to create a mood, combining the sculptures with the trees, planting and birds, water also helps……I hope that visitors here, even those from Tibet, who come here from time to time will find this sculpture-nature garden a deep refreshing sanctuary”, Norton wrote.

A passionate environmentalist, Norton turned her property into an urban sanctuary for birds and wildlife. The gardens comprised of native plants, and over 250 varieties of palms and cycads from all over the world, were created as a setting for her monumental sculptures of both stone and brick. In 1977, Norton established a foundation, which ensured the long-term preservation of her house (now Nationally Registered), studio, gardens, and art for the enjoyment and education of the public.
Located in the historic El Cid Historic Neighborhood of West Palm Beach, with expansive views of the Intracoastal Waterway, the home was designed in 1925 by well-known architect Maurice Fatio and features coquina pathways, pecky cypress ceilings and beautiful gardens. In 1935 Norton Museum of Art founders, Ralph and Elizabeth Norton, purchased the home and selected Marion Sims Wyeth to redesign it in the Monterey Revival Style as seen today. In 1948, the widowed Ralph Norton married Ann Weaver, sculptor instructor at the Norton Museum. That same year Norton invited Wyeth to design Ann’s studio. The home was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.

Ann Norton’s monumental, silent, mysterious sculptures built in situ over a period of 15 years were intended to be discovered as surprises amidst the dense, jungle-like vegetation. The Gardens, designed by world-renowned botanist Sir Peter Smithers as a rare palm garden, represent Ann’s commitment to conservation and the preservation of a quiet retreat in the midst of a burgeoning city.

Eight brick monolithic sculptures stand throughout the garden; powerfully symbolic, allegorical even, of the architecture of the South, of the influence of both Gothic and Romanesque façade and tower, of abstracted form married to realistic meaning.

Most are sculpted from handmade North Carolina brick, all with architectural elements; some with cantilevered appendages, some fluid apertures of ancient Sanskrit, others enigmatic, undulating and inimitable.

“Anthropomorphic references suddenly seem to merge with monumental sculpture that, in part because of its brick component but more for weight reasons as well, reach for the boundaries of architecture- an architecture to be sure devoid of common functions and free therefore to relapse into its sculptural, i.e., exclusively plastic symbolic meanings”, according to Thomas Messer, former director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.


Her large-scale wood and brick sculpture she analyzed as “gateways and sort of monuments…. things along the road out in Nepal you put up to the gods. I am not a religious person. Not anything. I just love to make things for people to be lifted up by,” she once told a reporter. The great beams of Northern cedar transported by truck from British Columbia to south Florida were transformed in her studio into evocative but mysterious totems with portals, using the mallet and the chisel but never power-driven tools.

Seven Beings, is a group of colossal figures which stands in the garden as an homage to her late husband, Ralph Hubbard Norton (1875-1953). In particular and as an ensemble, this cluster of monumental forms carved from huge blocks of Norwegian granite was inspired by the natural but unusual rock formations found in the mountains and deserts of the American West—specifically those of Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. “The modern movement in sculpture had produced surprisingly few works on a monumental scale and almost none involving a group of related figures”, wrote Daniel Catton Rich, of the Chicago Institute of Fine Arts. Norton 7 Beings was praised as a unique achievement by Charles Sterling, curator of paintings at the Musée du Louvre.

Did you know...?

Norton traveled to Tibet and Nepal meeting the Dali Lama on several occasions. She also wrote and illustrated several children's books as a young woman seeking to make money to go to art school.

SPECIAL RESOURCES

The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens holds the collection of Ann Weaver Norton’s life work as left by her for the benefit of the community including nine monumental sculptures created in situ, sculptures in wood, plaster, bronze, marble and wire, charcoal, pastel and watercolor works on paper, as well as her sculpting tools and mixtures. The compound includes tropical gardens designed by Sir Peter Smithers and meant to provide a dramatic background of dense foliage for Norton’s nine monumental sculptures, as if they were to be suddenly discovered in a jungle. The gardens contain one of the largest collections in the country of rare palms and cycads. They consist primarily of green foliage of varied textures and colors and include an assortment of magnificent native species and provide shelter and food for wildlife and supporting pollinators.

The gallery and gardens are available to the public for event rentals

WHAT TO DO HERE

  • • Take a guided tour of the rare palm and cycad gardens with the Master Gardener on Wednesdays at 10 am.
  • • Take a guided tour of the visiting Exhibitions in the Gallery and Gardens, Monday through Saturday at 10 am and Sundays at 2 pm
  • • Attend an Artist Talk with the visiting artists in exhibition
  • • Have an al fresco lunch in our courtyard
  • • Attend a special event such as Sculpture in Motion (November) or Evening in the Gardens (January)
  • • Attend one or of all the Through our Eyes visiting speaker lectures
  • • Attend a Sunday afternoon Jazz or Gospel concert in the Gardens
  • • Take a copy of the Field Guide and stroll and explore the Sculpture Gardens
  • • Spend time in Ann Norton’s historic studio
  • • Participate in one of our wellbeing programs
  • • School programs