The neoclassical façade of the Legion of Honor (a full-scale replica of the French Pavilion at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition) may come as a surprise, deep in the forest of the Presidio. This world-renowned museum is one of San Francisco’s most beautiful with its views over the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean and also its collection of more than 4,000 works of art. The museum is especially strong in European works—visiting scenes of nymphs at play by Boucher and pre-Raphaelite beauties will set the tone for a day of romance.
The exhibit consists of approximately 115 photographs, paintings, drawings and manuscripts that explore the creative interaction between Man Ray and Lee Miller, two giants of European Surrealism. Prior to entering, I explored the inviting French neoclassical architecture.
Visiting the Legion of Honor in San Francisco's Lincoln Park is a wonderful way to begin the day. High on the headlands above the Golden Gate – in the Land's End area – sits the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, a gift of Alma Spreckels to the city of San Francisco. The views of downtown San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Marin Headlands are spectacular! The museum exhibitions cover European arts and sculpture. In front of museum visit the Holocaust Memorial by sculptor George Segal and Mark di Suvero's large red sculpture. Check the website for current exhibitions. Easy access by public transit but if you decide to drive there is free parking. Bring your camera!
It was a foggy morning when I arrived at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco's Lincoln Park. While waiting for the museum doors to open I enjoyed the spectacular views of San Francisco and western Marin county. I noted Mark Di Suvero's large red sculpture which seemed to echo Sutro Tower in the distance. And then I took a few steps down from the parking lot and found George Segal's sculpture, "The Holocaust." A disconcerting reminder of one of the most significant genocides of the 20th century in such a beautiful spot was jarring and haunting. Segal's bronze work, painted white, is believed to have been inspired by Margaret Bourke-White's famous Life Magazine 1945 photograph of the liberation of Buchenwald. Haunting silence in the fog that stayed with me for days.
The California Palace of the Legion of Honor is a smaller version of the Palais de la Legion d'Honneur in Paris, and is not only a museum experience that takes you straight back to France, but is also a divine place to watch the sunset in San Francisco.
Within, the Auguste Rodin collection is the third largest in the world (behind Paris and Philadelphia), but the exterior is well worth the wandering. Beautiful marble statues and hidden memorials are scattered throughout the grounds and I love the view from the pictured 'El Cid' statue (done by artist Anna Hyatt Huntington).
My favorite memory from this very spot? Taking my best friend out on a celebratory San Francisco bike ride on the morning of her 34th birthday. I gave her husband candles, a cake and some chilled champagne and had him waiting for us in this very spot, at the top of a great climb on our bikes through the Lands End area. It happened to be the same Saturday as Fleet Week and we watched the fly overs and stayed for the glorious colors of sunset.
Make the trip to the Legion of Honor and enjoy, yet another, Bay Area evening as the sun goes down.