The J. Paul Getty Villa Museum of Malibu, California, is situated on a hilltop in the Santa Monica Mountains, just off the San Diego Freeway. It is a program of the J. Paul Getty Trust, initiated by J. Paul Getty (1892-1976), a businessman, collector, and philanthropist. He considered art to be an enlightening influence; his perspective led to the museum's inception.
The Getty Villa Museum, first built in 1971, presents Getty's collection of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present, against a backdrop of dramatic architecture, tranquil gardens, and breathtaking views of Los Angeles's environs — the Pacific Ocean, San Gabriel Mountains, and the city's vast street grid.
Its goal is to make the collection attractive and meaningful to visitors by presenting and interpreting the holdings. The collections include European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts, and European and American photographs.
The museum began its painting collections in the 1930s under the astute leadership of Getty himself. Today, the museum holds a collection of 450 European paintings, spanning from 1300 to 1900. The wide-ranging collection showcases paintings from the North Italian Renaissance, Baroque painting from Italy and Flanders, 17th century Dutch, and 18th- and 19th-century French works.
The Department of Photographs maintains nine collections and several other photographs acquired in 1984. Their aim is to include American and European modern artistic ability. Drawings by Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, and, more recently, a rare drawing by Michelangelo, add a certain awe to the museum.
J. Paul Getty began to collect 18th-century French decorative arts in the 1930s. Today the collection is an elaborate show of Parisian objects from 1650 to 1800, comprising furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles, and medieval and renaissance stained glass. The collection also includes Italian majolica* and furniture. J. Paul Getty’s collections of European sculpture include glittering pieces from the Italian Renaissance, French, and British Neoclassical Era.
The J. Paul Getty museum established the illuminated manuscripts holdings in 1983, with the purchase of one of the finest private collections of illuminated manuscripts in the world, assembled by Peter and Irene Ludwig of Aachen, Germany. The museum holds an outstanding collection of Ottonian, Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance illumination. A vast collection of antiquities spanning the sixth century B.C. to the fourth century A.D. has burnished the museum's fame.
Getty Villa is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece and Rome.
The Getty Museum Trust created another cultural landmark when they opened the J. Paul Getty Museum Center in 2006. Conservation and education is a fundamental responsibility of the J. Paul Getty Museums and an essential element of the Museum's mission.