Lucille Ellis Simon; Art Patron and Collector
Lucille Ellis Simon, an art patron and collector who served on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and funded the museum’s influential “Living With Art” program for children, died Tuesday in Los Angeles after a long illness. She was 88.
The first wife of industrialist and art collector Norton Simon, she grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., the daughter of a candy and tobacco wholesaler.
She graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology, and was studying social work at USC when she met Simon at a Thanksgiving party in Los Angeles.
They were married in 1933 and divorced 37 years later.
Her interest in art preceded that of her famous husband, and she became an ardent advocate of art education in Southern California.
In the 1960s, she was active in the UCLA Art Council’s Collection Study Program, opening the couple’s Hancock Park home to graduate art students.
The students were able to view a private collection that “would have been extraordinary in any city and was unsurpassed in Los Angeles,” wrote Suzanne Muchnic in her book “Odd Man In: Norton Simon and the Pursuit of Culture.”
The collection included “23 works by Degas, 15 sculptures by Maillol, 14 Picassos, 12 Cezannes, 11 Daumiers, eight Matisses and pieces by other artists ranging from Goya to Toulouse-Lautrec,” Muchnic said.
After the Simons divorced in 1970, Lucille Ellis Simon continued her philanthropic endeavors. In 1991, in honor of the National Gallery’s 50th anniversary, she donated “The Three Nymphs,” a lead sculpture by Aristide Maillol, to that Washington institution.
In 1993, she completed the donation of “Swineherd, Brittany,” a large landscape by Paul Gauguin, to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The painting was the fourth Gauguin in the county’s collection, making the Wilshire Boulevard museum the largest repository of the artist’s work in Southern California.
A longtime supporter of art education at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Simon was the sole funder of the innovative art appreciation program for grade-school children, “Living With Art: Art in the House.”
The program, now into its second decade, brings children into the museum to view and make sketches of works in the permanent collection after studying slides in the classroom.
In addition to the museum, Simon was closely associated with the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, the Braille Institute of America, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Center Theatre Group and the Music Center of Los Angeles County, of which she was a founder.
The family requests that contributions be made to the “Living With Art” program.
Services will be private.