Oh, what an extraordinary visit to an extraordinary place! I will try to tell you the story of my trip in photographs and words. I had not been to San Francisco for many years, not since my children were small and we ferried over to Alcatraz and spent time at Fisherman's Wharf. This trip was different and San Francisco struck me as such a vibrant, whirlwind of a city. We were fortunate enough to stay on the 29th floor of the Grand Hyatt with a sparkling view out toward SF Bay where the Louis Vuitton Sailboat Races were in high gear. This view was even more incredible at night!
Saturday morning began overcast with a dense marine layer but soon cleared and we had a perfect day. The Legion of Honor is a re-creation of a French Palace and was given to San Francisco in 1924 to honor soldiers of WWI. It is a spectacular building in pale gray marble set high on a hillside overlooking the Bay and surrounded by groves of old and elegantly sculptural cedar trees.
What a surprise to walk through the center archway into the starkly beautiful Court of Honor and find it dominated by Rodin's The Thinker!
The special exhibition, Impressionists on the Water, was perfectly done and displayed in one awe inspiring room after another. Although photography is allowed in the permanent collections, it was prohibited in this special collection so I can only tell you that it was a true joy to see. For almost 2 solid hours I was surrounded by Monet, Pissaro, Signet, Sisley, Vuillard, Bonnard, Pissaro, Renoir and others. I had a chance to see how they covered their canvases, to analyze their brushwork, thickness of paint and intensity of color. I was mesmerized. After viewing the collection, my overall feeling was that the picture most well done, the one that shimmered with dappled sunlight and glistening water, that whispered with the rustle of women,s skirts and shivered with leaves dancing in the gentle breeze was Monet's Harbor at Argenteuil - this is a photo from the internet of the painting and, as always, does not come close to portraying the incredible skill and beauty of this piece.
But, surprisingly, this was not my favorite. I found myself going back numerous times to view a small oil painting on cardboard by Toulouse Lautrec. It was painted as if Lautrec was sitting in the front part of a boat as it cut through the turquoise waters of the lake with the prow jutting forward and the sky racing with clouds overhead. It was so emotional, so fascinating in its utter focus and intensity. I adored it. Unfortunately, I cannot find a photo of this painting on the internet, nor did they have anything in the gift shop with this painting reproduced - but it is etched in my memory forever!
After lunch in the very charming museum cafe, I meandered through the permanent collections and photographed a few pieces.
Having grown up in Philadelphia, I spent a lot of time at the Rodin Museum there, and was delighted to see that the Legion of Honor has an extensive Rodin collection beyond The Thinker in the courtyard, all magnificently displayed in two private rotundas.
|Auguste Rodin / The Three Shades / 1880|
And then there are the paintings:
|Jacopo Pontorino, Italy / Madonna and Child with Two Angels / 1445-1557|
I was surprised at how modern this piece appeared with the tender positioning of the figures, the delicately painted faces and the brilliant colors.
|Modigliani - his approach and canvas surface texture is so unique!|
|Joos van Cleve, Dutch / Lucretia / 1525 - her face is utterly remarkable. I could have spent an hour looking only at that.|
|Peter Paul Reubens / 1612 / The Tribute Money |
|Rembrandt! / Joris de Caulerii / 1632. The depth of insight into this gentleman displayed by Rembrandt's brush is nothing short of miraculous.|
|Frns Hal, Dutch / Portrait of a Gentleman in White / 1635. A stunning portrait that dominates the gallery it is in. It made me gasp when I saw it.|
|Gustav Courbet / The Wave / 1869 - his brushwork deeply influenced Monet|
|Jules B LePage / Sarah Bernhardt / 1879. I am not familiar with this artist but this portrait is so breathtaking and so exquisitely done. She is a presence to be reckoned with.|
|Louis Maurice Boutet de Monvei / Portrait of a Man / 1875. Another unfamiliar artist that did an awe inspiring portrait.|
|A gallery with a large Monet Waterlilies|
Oh, I could go on and on as I took hundreds of photos and have been pouring over them. But I hope this gives you an idea of the wealth of paintings in this gem of a museum and perhaps inspires you to make your own visit one day. In November the special exhibit will be Anders Zorn. Imagine that!