Masterpieces of European Painting Return to the Legion of Honor

By Authors

As we prepare to welcome the public back to the Legion of Honor, some of our masterpieces of European painting have also returned to the museum. Frequent visitors sometimes notice that their favorite painting isn’t hanging right where they left it on their last visit. This is because the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco has an active artwork lending program; we loan works from our collection to other museums both nationally and internationally. We share our masterpieces widely, but they always return home to the Legion of Honor.

Read on to discover where Monet’s Water Lilies and other masterpieces of European painting have been since you saw them last, and collect some interesting facts to share with a friend the next time you visit the museum.

El Greco, St. Francis Venerating the Crucifix, ca. 1595
Domenikos Theotokopoulos, called El Greco, “St. Francis Venerating the Crucifix,” ca. 1595 *

Where this masterpiece has been:

El Greco’s St. Francis Venerating the Crucifix (ca. 1595) was included in a major retrospective on El Greco at the Grand Palais in Paris, and then at the Art Institute of Chicago. Learn more about El Greco: Ambition and Defiance in this video.

Interesting fact to share with a friend:

Saint Francis (the patron saint of San Francisco) was a popular subject in art during the Counter-Reformation, a time of reform and revitalization within the Catholic Church. There are more than 120 known paintings of Saint Francis painted by El Greco and his workshop alone! 

Where to find this masterpiece at the Legion of Honor:

St. Francis Venerating the Crucifix returns to Gallery 5, where it will be on view with other paintings of saints by El Greco, St. John the Baptist (ca. 1600) and St. Peter (1605-1610), as well as with another depiction of Saint Francis, a sculpture by Rinaldo de Rincón.

*This painting will be back on view in early November 2020.

Georges de La Tour, “Old Man” and "Old Woman," ca. ca. 1618–1619
Georges de La Tour, “Old Man & Old Woman,” ca. 1618–1619

Where these masterpieces have been:

Old Man and Old Woman were on view in the first exhibition in Italy dedicated to the French master of candlelight: Georges de La Tour: L'Europa della luce at the Palazzo Reale in Milan. The Legion’s paintings were displayed alongside others by La Tour, lent by 28 collections from three continents.

Interesting fact to share with a friend:

These paintings date from La Tour’s earliest period when he created powerful images of poor musicians and tattered beggars. However, Old Man and Old Woman remain enigmatic: if they are indeed poor, why the finery of their costumes, particularly the woman’s highly luxurious satin apron carefully embroidered around the edge? The apron could only have been owned by someone with money, and the value attached to the apron is evident in the creases which show it has been stored and carefully preserved.

Where to find them at the Legion of Honor:

The elderly couple returns to Gallery 6 where French and Italian Baroque art is on view.

Edgar Degas, “Musicians in the Orchestra (Portrait of ,”Désiré Dihau),” ca. 1870
Edgar Degas, “Musicians of the Orchestra (Portrait of Désiré Dihau),” ca. 1870

Where this masterpiece has been:

Edgar Degas’s Musicians of the Orchestra (Portrait of Désiré Dihau), was on loan to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris for an exhibition on Degas at the Opera, which also travelled to the National Gallery of Art. The Musée d’Orsay is a frequent collaborator of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the most recent such collaboration was the co-organizing of James Tissot: Fashion and Faith.

Interesting fact to share with a friend:

This painting is an oil sketch for the Musée d’Orsay’s Orchestra of the Paris Opera, one of Degas’s radically new interpretations of contemporary subjects. The Legion of Honor’s painting features a famous bassoonist from the Paris Opéra orchestra named Désiré Dihau. The two paintings were on view together in the exhibition in Paris.

Where you’ll find this masterpiece at the Legion of Honor:

Degas’s radically cropped composition of the orchestra pit is back in Gallery 19 with other works by his fellow Impressionists.

Claude Monet, “Water Lilies," 1914–1917
Claude Monet, “Water Lilies,” ca. 1914–1917

Where this masterpiece has been:

The Legion of Honor’s Water Lilies was a highlight of the exhibition Monet: The Late Years at the de Young. Water Lilies was subsequently loaned to the Kimbell Art Museum. From there, it traveled much farther afield, to the Kunstmuseum Den Haag in The Hague, Netherlands, for an exhibition titled Monet: The Garden Paintings.

Interesting fact to share with a friend:

Curators have noted that the active flurries of brushwork in Water Lilies tend to stop short of the margins at top, bottom, and right of the composition, but not on the left. This may suggest that the painting was trimmed at some point along its left side.

Where you’ll find this masterpiece at the Legion of Honor:

This favorite of the Legion of Honor is once again in Gallery 19 where it anchors the sightline of the entire north wing of the museum.

The Legion of Honor reopens to the public on October 30, 2020. We are thrilled to welcome you back safely to the museum! You can see these masterpieces and many others when you visit. With your health and safety as our top priority, we’ve made some changes to create additional time and space for everyone.

Read Our Safety Plan

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