A Day at the Bowers Museum

Blowhard, Esq. writes:

bowersAlthough I’ve lived within 10 minutes of it for almost a decade, it was only within the past month that I finally made it over to Orange County’s Bowers Museum, an art and cultural history institution located in Santa Ana, California. I picked a great day to go, as the museum almost seemed custom-tailored to my interests, with exhibits on ancient Egypt, Academic art, Beethoven, and the art of Oceania.

First, a few shots of the museum building and grounds, done in the Spanish Colonial Revival style.

It was the first day of a new exhibition of Egyptian animal mummies. The exhibition, on loan from the Brooklyn Museum, also featured other statuary and artifacts. (Warning you now that I didn’t take a lot of notes that day, so I can’t tell you what everything is. There’s a limit to what I’ll do for you people.)

Another show featured a selection of Academic art from the 19th-century French salon. The theme was supposedly the increasing self-expression of the salon painters, but given how the subject matter was dictated and circumscribed, I’m not sure the curators did a good job of convincing me of their thesis. But who cares about that, the paintings are great. A word about the dude throwing the cats. It’s a detail from “Cambyses at Pelusium,” 1872 by Paul Marie Lenoir. The museum copy notes, “Cambyses, King of Persia, devised an ingenious ploy to destroy the Egyptian inhabitants of Pelusium. He ordered his military to collect all the cats, a sacred and respected animal in ancient Egypt, and catapult them over the walls of the Egyptian fortress. As the felines fell from the sky, the inhabitant rant into the line of battle, risking their own lives to save their revered cats…This painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1873.” The paintings are all from the Knohl Collection.

There was a small exhibit about Beethoven. That’s one of two life masks made of the composer while alive. He found the process very uncomfortable hence the annoyed expression. I believe the handwritten manuscript is from either the 9th symphony or one of late string quartets.

The arts of China. I liked the decorative wood carvings the best.

One of my favorite exhibits of the day was of the art of Papua New Guinea. Although the exhibit was titled “Spirits and Headhunters,” a few objects aside, they avoided the headhunting aspect of the culture. Love the masks.

I didn’t even see most of the Bowers’ permanent collection, which features lots of Native American, African, and Pre-Columbian art. Next time.


  • The museum also featured the incredible posters of a Nepalese Buddhist monk, which I devoted a separate post to here.
  • I spent a day at the Getty Center a few months ago. A new Google service called Art Project now allows you to stroll through the museum virtually.

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
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3 Responses to A Day at the Bowers Museum

  1. Pingback: NYC Notes, Part 3: The Cloisters at Fort Tryon Park | Uncouth Reflections

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