1905 - 1982
Inducted in 2019
Ann Weaver Norton left her hometown of Selma, Alabama, to attend Smith College, from which she graduated in 1927. Later she settled in New York City and resolved to become an artist. Mentored by eminent sculptors such as Alexander Archipenko and William Zorach, Norton became a successful sculptor in her own right. Her artistic vision was shaped by Cubism and the Art Deco style, but also by the architecture and sculpture of Romanesque and Gothic churches which she studied on trips to Europe. During her lifetime her works were exhibited frequently in New York and Florida but also in France and Italy, where they are found in the collections of national museums. In 1942 she became the first instructor of sculpture at the new Norton Gallery and School of Art and in 1948 married the museum’s founder Ralph Hubbard Norton (1875-1953). Over the next three decades she planted the magnificent gardens of the Norton estate on Barcelona Road in West Palm Beach and created the monumental sculptures which inhabit them.
In 1977, Norton set up a foundation for the perpetual maintenance of the property, its buildings and her works (they were formally transferred to the foundation in 1979). It was her intention that the two-acre site should become a permanently “green oasis,” a refuge for art lovers and a habitat for subtropical trees, plants and wildlife (especially birds and butterflies) in a pesticide-free environment. In the last years of her life, Norton was ably assisted by her friend, Sir Peter Smithers, a former British diplomat and a renowned landscape architect, not only in the design of the gardens but also in the formulation of the philosophy which was to direct their future growth and development. Their collaboration resulted in the guiding principles that have directed the management of the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens (ANSG) since the founder’s death on February 2, 1982.
In 1995, the house, studio and gardens were added to the National Register of Historic Places. To enhance visibility, patronage and its public service role, the ANSG created the Gardens Conservancy in 2014. This advocacy and stewardship committee is dedicated to the preservation of the property, honoring Ann Norton’s vision for art and gardens in a symbiotic, urban sanctuary. As an enduring witness to that vision, Norton’s colossal sculptures preside over a bountiful landscape which constantly evolves in the South Florida sunshine.