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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#1: El Prado Designation Area, part 10

San Diego Historical Landmarks

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

El Prado Area Designation

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.

San Diego Museum of Art

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Museum of Art

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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 Penitent St. Peter

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.

Art Alive San Diego Museum of ArtEach 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.

San Diego Museum of ArtAlthough 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.

San Diego Museum of Art

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Museum of Art

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego Museum of Art

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Heraldic devices and the coats-of-arms of Spain, the United States, California, and San Diego also are present.

San Diego Museum of Art

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

San Diego coat of arms, San Diego Museum of Art

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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San Diego Historical Landmarks–#1: El Prado Area Designation, part 8

San Diego Historical Landmarks

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

El Prado Area Designation

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Next up on our west to east meandering on El Prado is a guy on a horse. Looks like this:

El Cid

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That, my friends, is El Cid, neé Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (1043-1099), a Castilian nobleman born in Vivar del Cid and military leader in medieval Spain. He was raised in the court of the Spanish Emperor Ferdinand the Great. El Cid became famous for his military prowess and helped enlarge Castilian territory at the expense of the Muslims. El Cid remains an idealized figure in Spain, and has been immortalized in plays, film, folk tales, and songs, most notably “El Cid,” a 1961 film starring Charlton Heston.

So why do we have a larger-than-life statue of El Cid in San Diego’s Balboa Park? El Cid died almost 450 years before San Diego was founded by Juan Cabrillo.

Well, it turns out that there actually are three El Cid Campeador statues like this one, the other two being in San Francisco and Buenos Aires. The first El Cid Campeador statue was a 1927 bronze sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973), one of New York City’s most prominent sculptors. In 1932, she became the first woman artist elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

That first El Cid Campeador was installed in Seville, Spain, in 1927. The El Cid Campeador statue in Balboa Park was donated by Mrs. Huntington in 1930 through the Hispanic Society of America.

El Cid Campeador

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Hispanic Society of America was founded by Anna’s husband, Archer Huntington, in 1904 in New York City.

Okay, so we know famous people, Archer Huntington and Anna Hyatt Huntington, are connected to the El Cid Campeador statue here, but why?

Believe it or not, I couldn’t find the information on the Internet, so I turned to my library of, gasp, actual books. The book that finally gave me the answer was San Diego Trivia 2 by Evelyn Kooperman (San Dieguito Publishers, San Marcos CA, 1993, p. 534).

The siting of El Cid has him riding towards the San Diego Museum of Art, which will be our next stop on this San Diego Historical Landmarks tour. The San Diego Museum of Art was designed by William Templeton Johnson (1877-1957), a noted San Diego architect who designed many notable places in the San Diego area, including the La Jolla Public Library, La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Trust & Savings Bank, Junipero Serra Museum in Presidio Park, and the Francis Parker School where I occasionally teach chess!

Through the magic of cross-referencing, I discovered that Johnson was friends with Mr. and Mrs. Huntington. When that friendship started, though, is what I want to know. Did it begin in America, or did they meet in Seville in 1929?

Interestingly, El Cid Campeador was not the first statue donated to Balboa Park by Anna Huntington. Diana was donated in 1927 and Youth Taming the Wild in 1935. I do not recall ever seeing those two statues so my mission, and I choose to accept it, is to find them!

Huntington’s 1927 donation leads me to believe that the Huntingtons and Johnson met well before the 1929 Exposition in Spain. Alas, my work here is incomplete and my curiosity is piqued. Perhaps some research in the new San Diego Central Library or with the San Diego Historical Society, located in Balboa Park, will shed some light on this.

Stay tuned!

El Cid Campeador at sunset

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Need a unique gift?
Consider Photographic Art!photograhic art taking pictures making art

Visit Russel Ray Photos.

Visit Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Use code FTNSD to get a 20% discount through April 14, 2014.

►►►►◄◄◄◄

Looking for real estate services in San Diego County?
I can highly recommend James Frimmer, Realtor, CDPE
CA BRE #0145857201 HomeSmartDiamondSmall copy 2

02 HomeSmartRWnameOnly2 copy

►►►►◄◄◄◄

If you’re looking for a home inspector,
I recommend Russel Ray — that’s me!

Real Estate Solutions by Russel Ray