San Diego Museum of Art  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The San Diego Museum of Art is a fine arts museum located in Balboa Park in San Diego, California that houses a broad collection with particular strength in Spanish art. The San Diego Museum of Art opened as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego on February 28, 1926, and changed its name to the San Diego Museum of Art in 1978.


The Museum's collections are encyclopedic in nature, with pieces ranging in date from 5000 BC to 2001 AD. The museum's strength is in Spanish works by Murillo, Zurbarán, Cotán, Ribera and El Greco. Much of the museum's old master collection was donated by sisters Anne, Amy, and Irene Putnam. The museum's first major acquisition was the 1939 purchase of Francisco Goya's El Marques de Sofraga, which had belonged to a private family collection until that time and had never before been on public exhibition. The Putnam sisters provided financial backing for the purchase. The following year, director Reginald Poland acquired a portrait by Giovanni Bellini for the museum's collection. Then in 1941 the museum purchased a Diego Velázquez portrait of the Infanta Margarita of Spain, which was possibly a study for a larger portrait of her in Vienna. Other major benefactors during the museum's first quarter century were Archer M. Huntington Mr. and Mrs. Henry Timken, whose small art collection is housed in the nearby Timken Museum of Art, established in 1965.

The museum houses works by Italian masters Giorgione, Giotto, Veronese, Luini and Canaletto. Works by Rubens, Hals and van Dyck represent the Northern European School. The museum regularly hosts touring exhibits and has lately been working to display its standard collection in new ways, including an upstairs gallery discussing information which can be gathered by looking on the back of the canvas.

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