Given my unique schedule, I had the first Tuesday of July off, which was also free museum Tuesday at the de Young and Legion of Honor museums. I had been to part of the de Young a few weekends prior (Sfera #2 post) so I had an idea of what to expect, but I didn’t know much about the Legion of Honor – except that they were having a temporary exhibit that had to do with water. I was completely blown away by the Legion of Honor, and I will tell you why just after I share about the de Young.
The de Young is in Golden Gate Park and the building itself is worth seeing. It was designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron after the 2nd generation building was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The first museum was constructed in 1894 and the palm trees from that original site are actually at the current location – a mere 100+ years old. The de Young concentrates on American art, textiles and ancient Americas, Oceania and Africa. I will disclose that, in general, textiles, wooden sculpted objects, and decadent ceramics are on the lower notches of what art I have immediate appreciation for. It is not to say I dislike them, I just don’t spend a whole lot of time on them. A few de Young pieces I will remember:
Legion of Honor
Wow, wow, wow. I am either extremely late to the party, or the Legion of Honor is one of the Bay Area’s best kept secrets. It can be a bit of a trek to get there, but it is worth the extra bus transfer, hike or drive. The building overlooks the bay on Land’s End in the Presidio and like the de Young, the site itself is worth seeing. It was donated by Adolph Spreckels and his wife in 1924 (no big deal) and you can read more about the professionally articulated history here. With pieces by Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, and more, this place gives you a museum adrenaline rush. Oh, and that temporary exhibit about water, it is called ‘Impressionists on the Water,’ and has about 15 Monets on display along with Renoirs and others waiting to impress. Thank you America’s Cup for inspiring an exhibit of the best of the best artists who happen to have boating pastimes.
The Legion of Honor was full of many surprises for me, one of which I was very excited about. I pay attention to pieces that are representations of Christianity, particularly parables and callings in the Gospels because they bring so much history and context to a static image. When I saw ‘The Calling of Matthew’ by Mattias Stromer I took a closer look and it turns out it was influenced by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio’s ‘The Calling of Saint Matthew,’ which I saw at its home in the St. Luigi dei Francesi church in Rome last year. The Caravaggio painting was one of the memorable pieces I saw in Italy and I love times like this where you are able to connect the dots of experiences. The image to the right is ‘The Lord Reprimanding Adam and Eve’ sculpted by Bartolomeu Rubio . It is seemingly simple, yet has incredible depth and detail within the alabaster and recreation of events in Genesis.
Surprise #2 was The Edward E. Hills Gallery. On one wall there are four Monets and after coming to terms with what you are looking at, you turn to the right to see a Picasso painting accompanied by one of his sculptures. Furthermore, you turn right again and you are looking at two Dalis. It is a pretty incredible space:
The temporary exhibit ‘Impressionists on the Water’ is a must see (on display until October 2013). Take the Edward E. Hills Gallery experience and multiply it by 3 or 4 rooms. The highlights for me:
- Gustave Caillebotte ‘Regatta at Argenteuil’ *incredible reflections with a unique brush stroke*
- Ludovic Napoleon Lepic ‘Boats of the Beach at Berck’ *reminded of me of being on the beaches of France in 1997, eating pizza with whole olives and wondering where the waves were*
- Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec ‘The Passenger from Cabin 54 – On a Cruise’ *I like his ‘functional’ art and combination of font, color, layout*
- Claude Monet ‘The Seine at Argenteuil’ *Monet seems to have varying brush stokes in this piece that help contrast the water, grass, and sky. What I like most about all this work is how the colors can be so close, but you can clearly define the different subject. (similar to Venice Canals 2)*
Last, but not least, The Legion of Honor has one of the Bronze casts of ‘The Thinker’ in the entrance. You can spend some time staring at this … thinking. A successful Tuesday indeed.