San Francisco Sights to See
The Legion of Honor
In San Francisco, you have to visit the Palace of the Legion of Honor

Its full name is "The California Palace of the Legion of Honor", but most simply call it "The Legion of Honor".  What is it?  It is a complete and compelling art experience both inside and out. Housing a fine collection, the museum is located on a stellar site with awsomely breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay.

Completed in 1924, and re-opened in 1995 after a two-year, $35 million renovation, the building itself is as much a work of art as the objects it holds. Inside there are over 4,000 years of art, including paintings, sculptures and ceramics mostly of European style.

Here you can explore some of Rembrandt's lesser known works or see Rodin, Rubens, El Greco or David. Along with the classical masters, the visitor will find both impressionists and post-impressionists - Renoir, Degas, Pissaro, Seurat and many others.

Here you can see a range of works from Durer's "Adam and Eve" of 1504 to Monet's "Water Lilies" of 1914. There are even examples of Picasso and Braque within the collection. The permanent collection covers 20 rooms and there are several rotating exhibits.

Since most art lovers have visited so many other of the more famous museums, the Legion of Honor presents a special treat of its own. The opportunity to view smaller, lesser known works by the great artists is a rare delight. Typically, for most of us, such chances are limited to viewing in books or online.

Vincent Van GoghHere visitors can "fill in the gaps" by taking leisurely looks at works the other, bigger, better known, museums missed in their grab for the most well-known pieces. Then, the uncrowded rooms of the Legion of Honor provide a peaceful setting for contemplating the Van Gogh and Fra Angelico on display.

There are also unique tapestries and decorative arts from throughout Europe covering a period of several centuries. Drawings from the masters, and those who should be considered so, flesh out the offerings.

One of the highlights of any visit has to be the presence of several Rodin sculptures in two rooms. A casting of "The Thinker" is outside on the grounds and not far away is "The Kiss" of 1884.

While taking in the sculptures, you must also walk around the grounds and examine the building itself. A three-quarter scale replica of the "Palais de La Légion d'Honneur" in Paris, the museum was originally constructed as a tribute to the fallen of WWI.

As if to fit in with the theme, crews involved in earthquake retrofitting in the 1980s uncovered a number of skeletons on the grounds. The remains were determined to be part of the Golden Gate Cemetery, which was purchased by the city in 1867. Today, much of the area is covered by the Lincoln Park Golf Course.

Be the history of the site what it is, it is fully alive today with feasts for the eyes in several ways. Sitting at the end of  the Lincoln Highway, the 3,000 mile long first transcontinental highway in the U.S, the views atop the hill are spectacular. From here you can see not only the bay, but also the Presidio of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

After you've taken in the stunning vista, move up close and observe the carving above the entrance of the building. The replica is accurate down to the inscription "Honneur et Patrie" above the portal. Then wander into the Legion Cafe and enjoy a relaxing glass of tea on one of San Francisco's more-often-than-supposed sunny days as you review the wonder of all you have been privileged to see at this lovely San Francisco museum.

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Page Updated 6:19 PM Wednesday 5/5/2015