The Librarian
George Herms (American, 1935-)
Not on View

Equal parts alchemist, assemblage artist, and purveyor of all things miasmic, George Herms emerged on the Los Angeles art scene in 1955, at the young age of 20. In the same circle as other Beat generation artists and poets who lived in the bohemian enclave of Topanga Canyon, he soon found his place among his comrades in counterculture. Within this free-spirited environment, they were able to challenge the values of the art world while celebrating a love for society’s cast-off common objects.

Here, The Librarian strains to stand up and maintain an erect posture under decayed books that have become unreadable. A bell hangs from an appendage, and tomes from various literary genres struggle to cling together and remain legible. In this struggle, The Librarian serves as homage to the small-town librarian.

Herms’s art stands as an excellent counterpoint to the American postwar desire for the newest and latest consumer goods. His ambiguous artworks remind us that emotional attachments, while ephemeral, are strong bonds that are hard to break.


  • Artist Name: George Herms (American, 1935-)
  • Title: The Librarian
  • Date: 1960
  • Medium: Assemblage: wood box, papers, books, loving cup, and painted stool
  • Dimensions: 57 x 63 x 21 in. (144.8 x 160 x 53.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Molly Barnes
  • Accession Number: P.1969.091
  • Copyright: © 2008 George Herms

Object Information

Molly Barnes, Gift 1969/10/24 to;
Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, 1969-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena.

Directions in Collage

  • Pasadena Art Museum, 1962-06-19 to 1962-07-20

George Herms, Selected Works 1960-1972

  • Los Angeles, University of California at Los Angeles, 1972-11-05 to 1972-11-22

The American Century: Art and Culture 1900-2000

  • Whitney Museum of American Art, 1999-09-26 to 2000-02-27

Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970

  • Martin-Gropius-Bau, 2012-03-15 to 2012-06-10
  • J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011-10-01 to 2012-02-05

Fifty California Artists

  • Whitney Museum of American Art, 1962-10-23 to 1962-12-02

Paris - Los Angeles

  • Centre Georges Pompidou, 2006-03-08 to 2006-07-17

Assemblage in California

  • Irvine, University of California Irivine, Art Gallery, 1968-10-01 to 1968-11-30

Beat Culture and the New America: 1950-1965

  • Whitney Museum of American Art, 1995-11-09 to 1996-02-04
  • Walker Art Center, 1996-06-02 to 1996-09-15
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, de Young Museum, 1996-10-05 to 1996-12-29

Poets of the Cities, New York and San Francisco, 1950-1965

  • Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, 1974-11-20 to 1974-12-29
  • San Francisco Museum of Art, 1975-01-31 to 1975-03-23
  • Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum, 1975-04-23 to 1975-06-01

Surrealism Is Alive and Well in the West

  • Pasadena, California Institute of Technology, Baxter Art Gallery, 1972-02-24 to 1972-04-14

Made in America: Contemporary Painting and Sculpture from the Norton Simon Museum

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1999-06-24 to 2000-03-26

American Art of the 1950s and 1960s from the Collection of the Norton Simon Museum

  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1988-08-11 to 1994-04-03

Permanent and Loan Collection, 1974

  • Pasadena Museum of Modern Art, 1974-03-16 to 1974-06-06

Duchamp to Pop

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2016-03-04 to 2016-08-29

West Coast Art

  • Pasadena Art Museum, 1972-06-20 to 1972-09-03

Works from the Pasadena Art Museum

  • Vancouver Art Gallery, 1970-04-14 to 1970-05-10

Radical Past: Contemporary Art and Music in Pasadena, 1960-1974

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1999-02-07 to 1999-06-06
  • Armory Center for the Arts, 1999-02-07 to 1999-04-11
  • Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, Calif.), 1999-02-07 to 1999-04-25

Significant Objects: The Spell of Still Life

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2012-07-20 to 2013-01-21

Lost but Found: Assemblage, Collage and Sculpture, 1920-2002

  • Norton Simon Museum, 2004-11-05 to 2005-03-28

Recent Acquisitions, 1969

  • Pasadena Art Museum, 1969-11-24 to 1970-01-18
  • Dunham, Judith, Art Week, p. 2
  • Pasadena Art Museum, Recent Acquisitions 1969, 1969, no. 27 p. 21
  • George Herms, Selected Works 1960-1972, 1972, no. 3
  • Poets of the Cities New York and San Francisco 1950-1965, 1974, no. 63 p. 135
  • Butterfield, Jan, The Art Gallery Magazine, 1975, p. 59
  • American Libraries, 1985, p. 607
  • Albright, Thomas, Art in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1945-1980, 1985, fig. 88 p. 103
  • Solnit, Rebecca, Secret Exhibition: Six California Artists of the Cold War Era, 1990, p. 84
  • Philips, Lisa, Beat Culture and the New America, 1950-1965, 1995, p. 98
  • Gleason, Mat, Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula, 1995,
  • Grady, John, Sun Storm Fine Art Magazine, 1996,
  • Armory Center for the Arts/Art Center College of Design, Radical Past: Contemporary Art & Music in Pasadena, 1960-1974, 1999, p. 42, 106-107
  • Phillips, Lisa, The American Century: Art and Culture 1950-2000, 1999, no. 95 pp. 71-72
  • Grady, John, Busting Down All Art Walls: The Beats at the Whitney, 2000,
  • Gerdts, William, Patricia Trenton, Susan Landauer, The Not-So Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture, 2003, fig. 93 pp. 105-106
  • O'L. Higgins, Shaun; Colleen Striegel, and Garry Apgar, The Newspaper in Contemporary Art: Image, Icon, Muse and Medium, 2005, plate 97 p. 155
  • Peabody, Rebecca, et al., Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles Art, 1945-1980, 2011, Fig. 2-25 p. 92
  • George Herms, George Herms: The River Book, 2014, p. 37
Audio Tour
English | Español
Audio Tour Transcript
English | Español
English | Español
Transcripción de Audioguía
English | Español

Additional Artwork by Artist

Coolest Creosote George Herms 1962
For the Corner Pass George Herms 1962
The Book of Perfection George Herms 1994

Image reproduction permission may be granted for scholarly or arts related commercial use. All image requests, regardless of their intended purpose, should be submitted via the reproduction request form.

Images may be protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. Additional permission may be required.

Approved requests for the reproduction of an image will receive a contract detailing all fees and conditions of use of the image. Upon receipt of both the signed contract and full payment, the Office of Rights and Reproductions will provide the image. A complimentary copy of the published material must be provided to the Norton Simon Museum.

Reproduction Request Form