Posted by: cantmisssd | February 22, 2010

Timken Museum of Art

One thing that can get frustrating in Balboa Park- especially for those who were raised on free and public museums- is that most of the museums and attractions cost money. While the Timken would stand on its own merits, it gets a particular boost by always being free.

Combine that price with the relatively small collection, and it’s a fantastic compliment to any day spent wandering the park on a budget. The Timken’s collection covers five rooms and specifically focused: religious works of European old masters, Russian icons, and 18th-and 19th-century American paintings. The collection covers such noted names as Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens, Eastman Johnson, and John Singleton Copley. If you ever do feel compelled to drop a few bucks, the Timken has an excellent ongoing series of events and lectures that add great depth to appreciation of the collection and art in general.

The story of the Timken is deeply rooted in San Diego and traces the evolution of the arts community here. It begins with the Putnam sisters, who relocated with their retiring parents at the beginning of the 20th Century. With San Diego as a base of operations, they barnstormed throughout Europe for decades, accumulating a number of works that went to the SDMA and which up the bulk of the collection now housed in the gallery. When they weren’t snapping up European treasures, they- and friend/advisor William Ayers operated out of the funky houses between 1st and 4th Ave off Laurel that you can still see today (with second homes in South Hillcrest because that half mile makes a difference).

The collection and the corresponding Putnam Foundation was established with Ayers in 1951, and a decade later the Timken family was on board with funding for the museum. Frank Hope Jr., a local San Diego architect, designed the building that serves as the east anchor of Plaza de Panama and the west flank of the Lily Pond. Since then, Putnam Collection works have made the rounds as loans to some of the most prestigious galleries in the country, but you can still pop in from down the street any day (except Mondays, when it’s closed) to check them out for free in the midst of your other assorted Balboa Park galavanting.

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