Thursday, December 12, 2013

Legion Of Honor Museum

Legion of Honor is situated in the northern part of San Francisco, overlooking the bay. The building itself deserves some art-gazing as it a beautiful example of the Romanesque (neoclassical) style, complete with a fountain in the circular plaza in the front. 
Legion Of Honor
The main entrance opens to a peristyle, where Rodin's Thinker holds court. 

The Thinker
Tickets are sold inside. The visitors guide provides the overview of the different sections of the museum. We weren't methodical, and were lured right away by the central atrium consisting of more sculptures by Rodin. But one can better understand the influence of Rodin on modern sculpture, after seeing some of the more classic samples in the other sections.

The Three Shades

The Call To Arms

You would do well to follow the history of art by starting with the innermost section in the left wing of the building. Section 1 was the Rotating exhibition, filled with huge wall-sized tapestries from the medieval era. The dim lights are perhaps special to protect the old wovens, but they slyly reminded me of the Dark Ages.

The next few sections are oppressive with heavy use of gilt in the almost-exclusively religious (Christian) themed art. You can see an exquisitely carved 15th century Spanish ceiling installed here. Highlight: El Greco's Mannerist painting 'Saint John the Baptist'.
17th and 18th century art forms a large part of this museum's collection, spanning a few sections on either side of the central atrium and its adjoining rooms. This includes pieces of French period furniture, and paintings from French and Italian Baroque periods as well as Dutch and Flemish schools. There is a Rembrandt here, but it's not a famous one.

Best to break for lunch now at the cafe: they serve sandwiches and pastries named after painters. If the weather is as good as it was for us, you will want to grab a table on the verandah.

The Neoclassical section of art comes (to me) as a refreshing change from the portraitures of the previous period. I mused here that even in the current era of photography where light and color can be tweaked indefinitely, composition still remains as the mark of an artist.
Which then brings us to the Impressionist art section. Highlights here include paintings by Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, and Monet. At the time our visit, Impressionist art (specifically of a nautical theme) was also the subject of the Special Exhibition in the basement section

Very few works of post-impressionist art appear in this museum as far as I can tell. There are a couple of Picassos and a couple of Dalis.

We were not able to cover the other pre-modern, non-European, and ancient artifact sections to be found in the lower level, since we were running against the clock. This museum, as any other, needs several devoted hours of browsing. Perhaps better is to plan multiple visits, covering a few sections (chronological or themed) each time.

Main entrance to Legion of Honor
What: Legion Of Honor
When: Tue to Sun: 9.30am-5.15pm
Where: 100 34th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94121
Tickets: $10