When we speak of western art, we’re not usually referring to the "Cowboy Art" of masters like Russell and Remington, but to a far older tradition: the art which began in Europe during antiquity and has had the most profound influence on the art of the Americas as well. In its on-going mission to educate, entertain, and enlighten, the Norton has also accumulated outstanding representatives of European art from various epochs. One of the earliest of these works in the museum celebrates a historical event of enormous impact – the development of the printing press. The Norton has a page of a Gutenberg Bible from the 15th century, which features the so-called "Columbus Psalm".
Among other early European works featured in the Norton are six tapestries that date from the 16th century and were once found in the household of King Francois I of France.
The Norton began its collection of Old Masters with paintings from the golden age of Dutch landscape painting by 17th century artists Jacob van Ruisdael and Meyndert Hobbema. It has continued to add to these over time, choosing masters from successive ages and styles, ranging from the neo-classical portraiture of Sir Joshua Reynolds to the Impressionist portraiture of Mary Cassatt who, though American-born, is classified among the French Impressionists. Other works include examples of 18th and 19th century British landscapes and paintings influenced by the 19th century Munich School. Nineteenth-century France is particularly well-represented, including works by Barbizon painters like Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Charles Jacque, fine academic paintings by artists such as Alfred Stevens and Antoine Faivre, and an expansive collection of the sculpture of les animaliers, including works by the movement’s founder, Antoine-Louis Barye, and two of its most popular adherents, Rosa Bonheur and Pierre-Jules Mene.
Other European sculpture in the Norton includes pieces from the neo-classicist Jean-Antoine Houdon, the highly popular academic master Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, naturalistic sculptors Aime-Jules Dalou and Frederic Bartholdi (best-known for the Statue of Liberty), and a fine selection of works by the renowned Auguste Rodin. In addition, the museum features European decorative art including a broad-based selection of Wedgwood pottery and prized porcelain and china works by such prominent names as Royal Doulton and Staffordshire.