The works that make up the Norton collection reveal father and son’s discerning and complementary tastes. The elder Norton pursued the acquisition of works by Old Masters, such as Rembrandt van Rijn’s Christ, with the Sick around Him, Receiving Little Children, ca. 1649. His son, on the other hand, looked for works by emerging artists with more experimental approaches. Despite differing aesthetic tastes, the duo made cooperative acquisitions that include Albrecht Dürer’s Melencolia I, 1514, and the remarkable print portfolio Miserere, 1948, by Georges Rouault. Spanning six centuries, the Norton collection contains a breadth of imagery and subject matter that reflects the eclectic and highly personal tastes of the collectors. It also includes a number of prints by modern artists who are less known for their graphic works, such as Paul Cézanne and René Magritte.
By the mid-1990s, Nick Norton began to seek out a long-term home for the collection of works he affectionately refers to as his children. Between 1998 and 2000, he gifted the collection in its entirety to the museum. This gift of more than 500 works substantially expanded the museum’s existing collection of prints, previously numbering approximately 1,900 works. It also served as the catalyst for the creation of The F. Paul Norton and Frederic P. Norton Family Prints and Drawings Study Center, which was dedicated on August 7, 1999. The center now houses the majority of the museum’s collection of works on paper.