The Legion of Honor is a part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. The name is used both for the museum collection and for the building in which it is housed. Built to commemorate Californian soldiers who died in World War I, the Legion of Honor is a beautiful Beaux-arts building overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge. Its collections include Rodin’s Thinker, ancient art, and one of the largest collections of prints and drawings in the country.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco consists of the “de Young” and the “Legion of Honor”. Comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are the largest public arts institutions in the City of San Francisco and are among the largest art museums in the United States.
The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and became the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum. The present copper-clad, landmark building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.
The “Legion of Honor” is a gift of Alma de Bretteville Spreckels to the people of San Francisco. The dedication took place on Armistice Day in 1924. The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, which was a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco have rendered over a century of public service in the arts, and it is its mission to extend and enhance that service well into the 21st century. The Fine Arts Museums continue to serve as one of the premier public institutions in the western United States, existing to provide its community and region with high-quality exhibitions, programs, education and outreach, and to care for San Francisco's esteemed art collection.
The FAMSF permanent collection of more than 175,000 objects is organized into six areas and about 3,000 objects are on view at any time. Together the Legion and De Young receive more than 1.7 million visitors annually, making FAMSF among the most visited art museums in North America.