The Norton Family Print Collection

The passionate interest in collecting shared by Buffalo-based father and son F. Paul Norton (American, 1901–1978) and Frederic P. “Nick” Norton (American, born 1935) began in the 1940s when the elder Norton admired several prints acquired by his law office associate and, as his son describes, “caught the bug.”

The Nortons learned more about printmaking techniques and history with each acquisition, often finding subtle beauty in an object that may have appeared to others as merely marks on a piece of paper. Their fervor for prints was also fueled by a desire to elevate the medium, which is often less esteemed because, unlike a painting, a print is rarely a unique object; multiple copies exist of most prints.

Roy Lichtenstein (American, 1923–1997). Explosion from Portfolio 9, 1967. Color lithograph on Rives paper, edition 47/100 + 20 hors commerce and 10 artist's proofs, 22 1/16 x 17 inches (56 x 43.2 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Gift of Frederic P. Norton, 1999 (P1999:6.614.4). © Estate of Roy Lichtenstein.

Installation view of Rembrandt to Rauschenberg: The Norton Print Collection (September 28–December 31, 2000), featuring works gifted to the Albright-Knox by Frederic P. Norton. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

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.

  • Related Exhibition

    Rembrandt to Rauschenberg: The Norton Print Collection

    September 28–December 31, 2000

  • Related Publication

    Rembrandt to Rauschenberg: The Norton Print Collection