The Legion of HonorSeptember 4, 2018 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 14 °C
After a visit to an American Pharmacy, which I expected to be called a drug store but was not, we Ubered across town high up on one of the hills to visit San Francisco's famous Legion of Honor Museum. I had done a little homework on this place and knew that it houses a very fine collection of art from different time periods and locations.
It is a very imposing building from the outside with a grand arched entrance. Inside the arch way, it opens out into a large outdoor foyer surrounded by columns, and in the centre, the famous statue by Auguste Rodin, Le Penseur - the Thinker. I've known about The Thinker since childhood and never dreamed I would actually see it. As a matter of fact, I've thought a lot about The Thinker but I'm not sure The Thinker has thought a lot about me. As you can see in the pic, I tried to emulate his pose, but alas, my coordination has never been my strong suit and it's clear from this picture, neither is my proprioception.
To our great surprise and pleasure, the Legion had on a special exhibition called Truth and Beauty. This was a collection of the Pre-Raphaelites. Now in truth, I did have to read up rather quickly about this band of merry men and yes, they were all men, how they figured that something was lost in the paintings of their own day that they felt they wanted to capture again from the older masters from Rafael and before. So I got to see these guys but also some of the earlier famous artists they were emulating.
This was very special for me as I got to see my very first live Van Eyck. I had really remembered from my youth Van Eyck's famous picture of the Marriage of Arnolfini which today I accidentally called The Marriage of Gandolfini. The groom had put on a bit of weight. But the Legion was not showing the Marriage. Instead, it was showing Van Eyck's The Annunciation. It really is also a beautiful painting. The Archangel Gabriel arrives and tells Mary that she will be with child. It is so Van Eyck I recognized it immediately without having read its accompanying inscription.
There was also a lovely painting of Saint Cecilia the patron saint of musicians seated at a keyboard in a bright yellow dress and looking fabulous. Another work that really took hold of me was two little 16th century paintings by Pieter Coecke van Aelst depicting Mary Magdalene and Joseph of Arimathea having just seen Jesus crucified. If you zoom into Mary's face, you can see tears running down her cheeks quite plainly. Also if you look at Joseph's eyes, they are full and sad. Just beautiful.
There is also an out-of-this-world painting of The Lady of Shalott, which Chris tells me, depicts the lady not permitted to view the world directly, but only through its reflection in a mirror. It was painted by William Holman Hunt. The Pre-Raphaelites seem to have a thing with woman's hair. The larger the better. Every time I saw one of these portraits of some incredible female personage, each one had amazing giant big hair. I was put in mind of Dame Joan Sutherland actually. His skin, her hair, her sheer size.
The Legion of Honor is not the least bit squeamish about photography in its gallery. There was not a single sign anyway forbidding photography, not even flash photography. Needless to say, I took lots of shots and I'll only share a few of them here. There is only so much one can take of someone else's Gallery experience.
I feel very lucky and very honored to be here and to see these incredible originals by artists such as Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Albrecht Durer, Botticelli, Rosetti, el Greco and even some impressionists in one of the other rooms, Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, Manet, Pissarro; names I have known and read about my whole life.
After the gallery, it was time for dinner so we headed on down into Chinatown and ate a small feast. San Francisco's Chinatown is one of the biggest outside of Asia. It is full of glitz and glare and was a welcome relief full of super informality and earthiness. Of course, being in Chinatown, I could hardly not take a photo of the Trans America Building. You will know of course the joke about the guy in the top office of the Trans Am building. He has a pointy head. Till next.
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