For the introductory blog post to San Diego’s historical landmarks, click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 1
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 2
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 3
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 4
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 5
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 6
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 7
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 8
#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 9
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Let’s keep meandering along El Prado to the East. We’re nearly to the end!
On the north side of the Plaza de Panama circle is the San Diego Museum of Art.
The San Diego Museum of Art is the oldest, largest, and most visited art museum in San Diego County, hosting a half million visitors each year. The Museum’s permanent collection of Spanish and Italian old masters, South Asian paintings, and 19th- and 20th-century American paintings and sculptures is one of the best in the nation.
Arguably the Museum’s most famous possession is The Penitent St. Peter, painted by El Greco from 1601 to 1605, and purchased for the Museum in 1940 by Anne and Amy Putnam.
The Museum regularly features major exhibitions from around the world, as well as an extensive year-round schedule of supporting cultural and educational programs for children and adults. There also is a research library which provides access to an extensive collection of art history publications.
Each year since 1981 the Museum hosts Art Alive, its major fundraiser. Floral designers use organic materials, mostly flowers, to interpret a work of art from the Museum’s permanent collection. For four days the resulting creations are displayed next to the art work that inspired them.
Although many of the buildings throughout Balboa Park were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, this building was not one of them. Construction on this building did not begin until April 1924, after almost two years of planning for a municipal art gallery.
Appleton S. Bridges (1848-1929), a local business and civic leader, funded construction of the building. He hired William Templeton Johnson (1877-1950), one of San Diego’s leading architects at the time, to design and construct the new art gallery.
Although the Spanish Colonial-style architecture from the 1915 Exposition suggested the style, Johnson and his associate, Robert W. Snyder (1874-1955), looked directly to sixteenth-century Spanish Renaissance models in the plateresque style for inspiration, specifically the Cathedral of Valladolid in Valladolid, Spain; the University of Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain; and the Hospital de la Santa Cruz in Toledo, Spain.
Architectural sculptor Chris Mueller, who had supervised architectural details of many of the 1915 Exposition buildings, enhanced the façade with the addition of sculptural elements, among which are life-sized sculptures of Spanish Old Master painters Velázquez, Murillo, and Zurbaran, and busts of El Greco and Jose de Ribera.
Heraldic devices and the coats-of-arms of Spain, the United States, California, and San Diego also are present.
Construction took two years, during which time The Fine Arts Society was formed from the merger of the San Diego Art Guild and the Friends of Art to operate the new museum. The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego officially opened its doors on February 28, 1926, and ownership and maintenance of the building was transferred to the City of San Diego.
The core of the Museum’s collection was formed thanks to the generous donations of Appleton Bridges, Archer M. Huntington, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Timken, the Spreckels family, Alice Klauber, Mr. and Mrs. George D. Pratt, Mrs. Henry A. Everett, and Amy and Anne Putnam.
Visit the San Diego Museum of Art web site for more about the museum, including hours and current exhibitions.
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