The Norton Simon's Gehry-helmed makeover in the late 1990s raised the museum's profile. But it also helped it expand the range of its collection, giving it more space and creating a calm, simple environment in which to display it. And this is a beautifully designed museum, its collection sympathetically mounted and immaculately captioned.
The museum is still best known for its impressive collection of Old Masters, notably pieces by 17th-century Dutch painters such as Rembrandt (a particularly rakish self-portrait), Brueghel and Frans Hals. The French impressionists are represented by, among others, Monet, Manet and Renoir.
Other valuable holdings include a generous array of Degas' underappreciated ballerina bronzes, some excellent modern works — including a haunting Modigliani portrait of his wife, some Diego Rivera paintings, plenty of works by the so-called Blue Four (Feininger, Jawlensky, Klee and Kandinsky), and large collections of European prints, Far Eastern art and Buddhist artifacts. After you've checked out the temporary shows, head into the excellent sculpture garden. All told, a terrific museum.