Palace of Fine Arts


Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco

Written by Scott Messmore

San Francisco has long been a cultural center and boasts some of the finest collections in the nation. At the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, visitors can view early castings of The Thinker and John the Baptist by Auguste Rodin, The Orator, a plaster casting by Picasso, and Saint Francis Venerating the Crucifix by El Greco. French tapestries, medievel and Byzantine artifacts are at the Fine Arts Museum along with master works of artists such as Degas, Rembrandt, van Gogh, Renoir, Le Nain, Nattier and others.

Two Museums in One

The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco is in fact two organizations: the California Palace of the Legion of Honor and the DeYoung Memorial Museum. Founded as separate museums, the deYoung and Legion of Honor were merged in 1972.

Parisian Influence in San Francisco

Modeled after a copy of the Palais de la Legion d'Honneur in Paris shown at the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, the Legion of Honor was the gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels. The wife of a sugar baron, Spreckels had to postpone her plans of a fine arts building for San Francisco until after World War I. The building was dedicated to the men who sacrificed their lives in the Great War and opened in 1924. The Legion of Honor now holds art from the ancient world, graphic arts and European artworks. The deYoung was named after former San Francisco Chronicle publisher M. H. deYoung who felt in 1893 the city needed a world's fair. Golden Gate Park was the site of the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition drawing more than a million visitors. A permanent museum was built out of the Exposition's remaining buildings and opened to the public, free of charge, in 1895. deYoung created a museum of wildly different collections such as fine porcelin, Indian art, paintings, knives and handcuffs and thumbscrews. The deYoung now mainly houses American art and traditional arts of the South and North America, Africa and the Pacific nations.

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