Palace of the Legion of Honor – San Francisco

Palace of the Legion of Honor – San FranciscoPalace of the Legion of Honor – San FranciscoPalace of the Legion of Honor – San FranciscoPalace of the Legion of Honor – San FranciscoPalace of the Legion of Honor – San Francisco

Grand in form and content yet still intimate and inviting, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor features an impressive and wide ranging collection of paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, decorative objects and archaeological artifacts spanning 6,000 years of human history. Famed for its holdings of the work of French sculptor Auguste Rodin in particular as well as its landmark building perched on a promontory above the Pacific Ocean in Lincoln Park at Lands End in San Francisco, the Legion of Honor stands out as one of the most pleasant and pleasurable places to experience great art in the United States.

Flanked by two monumental bronzes, “Jeanne d’Arc,” from 1922 and, “El Cid,” from 1927, both by Anna Hyatt Huntington, the museum building is in itself a magnificent work of architectural art and craftsmanship, a faithfully recreated, three-quarter scale replica of the much admired, eighteenth century Parisian monument, the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur. Donated by benefactress Alma Spreckels in 1924 to the city and citizens of San Francisco, it serves not only as a museum but as a memorial to the California soldiers killed on the battlefields of Europe during the First World War.

The museum’s single most iconic, individual object, is a rare, over-life-size, bronze version of Rodin’s seminal work, “The Thinker,” created in 1880. The Legion’s version from 1904, one of the few cast under the artist’s supervision during his lifetime, greets visitors as they enter the museum through a stunning colonnaded courtyard.

A large portion of the artworks on display within including the eighty Rodin examples exhibited in the three sweeping entrance galleries were also donated by Mrs. Spreckels, a personal friend of the artist who purchased several of the museum’s best known works directly from him. Among the Rodin masterpieces on view are, “The Age of Bronze,” from 1877, “The Severed Head of St. John the Baptist,” from 1877, “The Kiss,” from 1884, “The Three Shades,” from 1898 and, “Miss Eve Fairfax (La Nature),” from 1904.

The approximately 250 paintings from the Legion’s permanent collection hung in sixteen galleries present a survey of artistic achievement by Europe’s leading masters with particularly impressive examples of British, Dutch, Flemish, French, Italian and Spanish art spanning from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries. Highlights includes Fra Angelico’s, “The Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominic,” from 1430, El Greco’s, “St. John the Baptist,” from 1600, Rembrandt’s, “Portrait of Joris de Caulerij,” from 1632, Tiepolo’s, “Empire of Flora,” from 1743, Gainsborough’s, “Portrait of Samuel Kilderbee,” from 1757, Vigée Le Brun’s, “Portrait of Hyacinthe Gabrielle Roland,” from 1791, Daumier’s, “Third Class Carriage,” from 1858, Stanhope’s, “Love and the Maiden,” from 1877, Manet’s, “At the Milliners,” from 1881, Seraut’s, “Eiffel Tower,” from 1889, Cezanne’s, “Forest Interior,” from 1899, Monet’s, “Water Lilies,” from 1917 and Picasso’s, “Still Life with Skull, Leeks, and Pitcher,” from 1945.

Comprehensive and wide ranging, the European Decorative Arts and Sculpture collection comprises works produced from medieval times to the early twentieth century.  Look for important holdings like a Spanish ceiling dating from about 1500, an Italian Renaissance, “Bust of Cosimo de’ Medici,” by Cellini from 1553, a French Empire, “Bust of Madam Duquesnoy,” by Houdon from 1805, three French Period Rooms filled with fine eighteenth century furniture, the, “Bowles Collection of English Porcelain,” and a Russian, early twentieth century, “Fabergé Table and Tea Service.”

Encompassing a broad geographical area and chronological range, the collection of ancient art and artifacts consisting of carvings, figurines, jewelry, sculpture, statues, vases and vessels made of diverse materials such as bronze, glass, gold, marble, terracotta and wood contains a number of rare works of high quality and importance from Egypt, the Near East, Greece and Rome. Splendid examples of art from these early civilizations like the Phoenician, “Nimrud Ivory Plaque,” dating to the eighth century B.C., the Egyptian, “Relief from the Tomb of Mentuemhet,” dating to 660 B.C., the Greek, “Statue of Asklepios,” dating to the second century B.C. and the Roman, “Season Sarcophogus” dating to 280 A.D. not only highlight the procession of cultures through the ages but provide the foundation for understanding Western art.

The Legion of Honor is also home to Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts which administers the museum’s collection of approximately 90,000 works of art on paper consisting of prints, drawings and artist books with curated selections presented in rotating exhibitions in specially designated galleries. Dating from the fifteenth century to the present, among the many artists whose works are represented in the far reaching collection are Edgar Degas, Albrecht Dürer, Winslow Homer, Brice Marden, Giovanni Piranesi, Rembrandt van Rijn, Ed Ruscha, Georges Seraut, Wayne Thiebaud, William Turner and Andy Warhol to name just a few.

Selections from the photography collection which span the entire history of the medium are presented intermittently throughout the year.  Especially strong in nineteenth-century European and American photography with a particularly large and significant concentration of early California, historical photographs including daguerreotype portraits and views of San Francisco and the Bay Area, the collection’s crown jewel is Arnold Genthe’s negatives and prints documenting San Francisco in the immediate aftermath of the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906.

Additional galleries on the museum’s lower level host exhibitions of note throughout the year and be sure to seek out the moving memorial to the victims of the Holocaust created by sculptor George Segal which sits in a grassy dell just outside in the surrounding garden. The museum also presents concerts in the Rodin Gallery every Saturday and Sunday at 4 p.m. when a repertoire ranging from Bach to Gershwin to Sousa marches to the great film music of Hollywood is performed on another one of the museum’s iconic treasures, a circa 1924 Skinner organ with 4,500 individual pipes engineered into the museum structure, considered to be one of the very finest organs ever made.

"The Thinker" (1904) - Rodin

“The Thinker” (1904) – Rodin

"Empire of Flora" (1743) - Tiepolo

“Empire of Flora” (1743) – Tiepolo

"Love and the Maiden" (1877) - Stanhope

“Love and the Maiden” (1877) – Stanhope

"Still Life with Skull, Leeks, and Pitcher" (1945) - Picasso

“Still Life with Skull, Leeks, and Pitcher” (1945) – Picasso

Palace of the Legion of Honor - San Francisco, CA

Palace of the Legion of Honor – San Francisco, CA

Official Museum Site


Palace of the Legion of Honor

100 34th Avenue

San Francisco, CA  94121

(415) 750-3600


Current Exhibitions:

Islam and the Classical Heritage

August 25, 2018 through January 27, 2019


The Future of the Past: Mummies and Medicine

May 14, 2016 through April 7, 2019


Upcoming Exhibitions:

East Meets West: Jewels of the Maharajas from The Al Thani Collection

November 3, 2018 through February 24, 2019


Early Rubens

April 6, 2019 through September 8, 2019


Earthquake! Photographs of 1906 by Arnold Genthe

March 21, 2020 through September 6, 2020


Must See in the Permanent Collection:

Rodin Sculptures:

  • “The Age of Bronze” 1877

  • “The Severed Head of St. John the Baptist” 1877

  • “The Kiss” 1884,

  • “The Three Shades” 1898

  • “Miss Eve Fairfax (La Nature)” 1904

  • “The Thinker” 1904


  • “The Meeting of St. Francis and St. Dominic” (1430) Fra Angelico

  • “St. John the Baptist” (1600) El Greco

  • “Portrait of Joris de Caulerij” (1632) Rembrandt

  • “Woman with Children in an Interior” (1660) de Hooch

  • “Empire of Flora” (1743) Tiepolo

  • “Portrait of Samuel Kilderbee” (1757) Gainsborough

  • “Portrait of Hyacinthe Gabrielle Roland” (1791) Vigée Le Brun

  • “Third Class Carriage” (1858) Daumier

  • “Love and the Maiden” (1877) Stanhope

  • “At the Milliners” (1881) Manet

  • “Eiffel Tower” (1889) Seraut

  • “Forest Interior” (1899) Cezanne

  • “Water Lilies” (1917) Monet

  • “Still Life with Skull, Leeks, and Pitcher” (1945) Picasso

Decorative Arts:

  • “Spanish Ceiling” (1500)

  • “Bust of Cosimo de’ Medici” (1553) Cellini

  • “Bust of Madam Duquesnoy” (1805) Houdon

  • “French Period Rooms” (18th century)

  • “Bowles Collection of English Porcelain” (18th century)

  • “Fabergé Tea Table and Tea Service” (Early 20th century)

Ancient Art:

  • “Nimrud Ivory Plaque,” (eighth century B.C.) Iraq

  • “Relief from the Tomb of Mentuemhet” (660 B.C.) Egypt

  • “Statue of Asklepios” (second century B.C.) Greece

  • “Season Sarcophogus” (280 A.D.) Rome


Visiting Hours:

Open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

Closed on Monday.



$15 for an adult ticket.

$10 for a senior ticket (65 and over).

$6 for college students with valid ID.

Free for children 17 and under.

Free for all the first Tuesday of the month (special exhibition fees still apply).


Purchase Tickets Online





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