Obituary: Norton Simon

Norton Simon, industrialist and art collector: born Portland, Oregon 5 February 1907; married 1933 Lucille Ellis (marriage dissolved 1970), 1971 Jennifer Jones; died Los Angeles 2 June 1993.

NORTON SIMON, the American industrialist, was an avid art collector who leaves behind him one of the world's greatest private collections, most of which is housed in the Norton Simon Museum of Art, in Pasadena, California.

Simon was a restless man, who lasted only a few weeks at the University of California at Berkeley in the late 1920s before dropping out to go into business. He began his ascent to great wealth with the purchase of a California orange-juice company from the bankruptcy court in 1931. The company expanded rapidly into areas such as canning tomatoes, and Simon went on to gain control of a wide array of businesses, including Hunt Food and Industries and the Canada Dry Corporation, which he eventually merged into the Norton Simon Inc conglomerate.

Despite his huge success as a businessman, Simon always had many other outside interests. In 1969 he stepped back from the business world, having discovered at the age of 62 that running a large company was not as exciting as building a business empire from scratch. A career in politics was on his mind, and he contested the nomination to run as the Republican candidate for a California senate seat in the 1970 elections. He lost, but retained a public profile as a regent of the University of California, which led him to become a vocal opponent of the policies of Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California.

Increasingly, however, Simon's energies were being directed at the art world, as a museum benefactor, art connoisseur and collector, and this was to be the main focus of the last 20 years of his life.

Simon had got his first taste of the art-collecting world in the mid-1950s, when he went looking for paintings to put on the walls of a house he had built in Los Angeles. He chose a Gauguin, a Bonnard and a Pissarro, and thenceforward was a serious collector, acquiring works by Matisse and Picasso, a Raphael Madonna, and Indian and South-east Asian sculptures.

In 1965 Simon caused a stir at an auction in London when he fell into a dispute with an auctioneer who had just sold Rembrandt's portrait of his son Titus to another bidder. Simon demanded that bidding be reopened because the auctioneer had failed to notice the secret signal Simon has given him. Bidding did resume, and Simon outlasted his opponent to win the Rembrandt at dollars 2.2m.

By the late 1970s his interest was shifting away from painting and towards sculpture, and in 1980 Simon sold some of his canvases, including Picasso's Woman with a Guitar, and Girls on a Bridge by Edvard Munch. The latter achieved dollars 2.8m at a Christie's auction in New York, which was then the second highest price ever paid for a 20th-century painting.

Simon had been ill for several years, and had resigned as president of the Simon Museum in 1989.

(Photograph omitted)

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Talent Manager / HR Manager - central London - £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Talent / Learning & Development Mana...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam