To Honor the Dead While Serving the Living

On Armistice Day in 1924, the California Palace of the Legion of Honor opened its doors to the public. Dedicated to the 3,600 California soldiers, sailors and marines who gave their lives during World War I, the Legion of Honor pledged to “honor the dead while serving the living.”

Today, we not only celebrate the sacrifices of countless servicemen and women, but also the 87th birthday of the Legion of Honor Museum. To commemorate this meaningful day, we hope you enjoy this selection of related artwork.

Unidentified artist. Union soldier with his rifle, ca. 1861–1865. Ambrotype. Gift of William Rubel. 1986.3.34.

In 1861, the illustrated journal Harper’s Weekly hired Winslow Homer to accompany the Union Army as an “artist correspondent.” Homer’s portrait of Albert Kintzing Post, a second lieutenant in the 45th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, depicts him as a dapper and self-confident gentleman soldier. According to Post’s descendants, Homer gave the portrait to Post as repayment for a loan. While Homer based the majority of his Civil War paintings and illustrations on the sketches he made in the field, this work is based on a tintype—a metal plate bearing a photographic image.

Winslow Homer (American, 1836–1910). Albert Post (1843-1872), ca. 1864. Oil on wood panel. Gift of Rollin K. and Diane Post. 1995.56. Currently on display at the de Young Museum in Gallery 23.

Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (Swiss, active in France, 1859–1923). L'Adieu (The Goodbye), 1915. Lithograph. Gift of Theodore M. Lilienthal. 1957.199.29

Clyde Forsythe (American, active 20th century). And They Thought We Couldn't Fight - World War I Poster, ca. 1917–1918. Lithograph poster. Gift of Darwin Reidpath Martin. 1977.1.234

In 1923, Legion of Honor founder Alma de Bretteville Spreckels arranged for a special ceremony in the museum's Court of Honor during the American Legion's annual convention in San Francisco. Among the invited guests were disabled veterans of World War I and a group of Gold Star Mothers who had lost their sons in France during the war. This moving event inspired Mrs. Spreckels to create a book that would come to be known as The Book of Gold. Eight years in the making, the book includes the names of approximately 3,600 California men who died in action in France in World War I. The Book of Gold was displayed at the Legion until 1941 when it was moved to storage in the museum archives for preservation purposes. It will be on display at the Legion of Honor through December 1.

Our Sons (1914 - 1918 (The Book of Gold), 1923–1931. United States, California. Leather, parchment, silk, metal foil threads, ink and gold. Museum Collection. Z2009.4. Currently on display at the Legion of Honor.

Anonymous (American). Men Working Together! - World War II Poster, 1941. Lithograph poster. Museum Collection. X1988.4.40

In honor of Veterans Day and the 87th anniversary of the Legion of Honor, general admission to the museum is free for all veterans and active duty military personnel (with valid ID) today, Friday, November 11, 2011. The $5 special exhibition surcharge for Pissarro's People still applies.

Special Veterans Day programming includes a screening of the film Art in the Face of War and a concert on the Legion's Skinner organ beginning at 2 pm.

To our veterans, we thank you!