Impressionism at the de Young and Legion of Honor

The last couple of weekends we took advantage of our museum memberships and went to a few art exhibits in San Francisco. If you’re in the area, definitely check out the major Impressionism exhibits, one of which closes on Labor Day: Birth of Impressionism: Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay at the de Young. [Update (September 3): I just read that tickets for the final days are now sold out. Read on for other available exhibits.]

The Legion of Honor, which has same-day admission reciprocity with the de Young, has a companion exhibit called Impressionist Paris: City of Light, closing September 26. The de Young exhibit definitely had the marquee paintings, but I actually found the Legion of Honor exhibit a bit more quirky and interesting with its variety of posters, book illustrations, and so forth, in addition to paintings.

And if you can’t get enough Impressionism, just wait, there’s more! Both museums will have additional related exhibits later this fall and into the new year.

We also went to SFMOMA for Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection (closes September 19), a wide-ranging exhibition with works by the modern greats.

All these museums are beautiful buildings and sites in their own right and a great way to spend an afternoon in the city. Food note: After the de Young, go have a meal at Park Chow and for dessert get the warm ginger cake with pumpkin ice cream. It’s de rigueur in my book.

2 replies on “Impressionism at the de Young and Legion of Honor”


This show was previously exhibited at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra, to 467,000 visitors in all, which probably means many more than 467,000 Australian opinions about the worthiness of the show. I’m glad that, in the second-last week of the show, James and I were able to get timed-entry tickets at 9.00am. Otherwise, I doubt that I would have bothered with the queues and the crowds. A gallery staffer told me that 460 people were admitted at a time. We took our time and enjoyed the pictures, took a pass-out, had coffee, then returned for a second look. By that time there were so many people that it was hard to see the pictures well.

Of course there were many fabulous things to see and try to contemplate. Among the dozen or so that especially appealed to me were
Théo van Rysselberghe, The man at the tiller, 1892
Alfred Sisley, Moret Bridge, 1893
Paul Cézanne, Kitchen table (Still-life with basket)

Yes, this was an exhibition of some great and fine works—masterpieces. But I think that, in Australia at least, it was oversold. It may have been the most valuable exhibition the National Gallery of Australia has ever shown, but I not sure that it was at all the best. The publicity repeatedly featured just three works by Van Gogh and by Gaugin. Yet the representation in the show of Van Gogh in particular was not as great as it had seemed from the promotion.

Brian, thanks for the comments. It’s neat to hear how these exhibits and pieces go traveling around the world. The de Young recently had a follow-up post-Impressionist exhibit that was rather impressive. I’m loving all this art!

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