Timken Museum of Art

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Timken Museum of Art
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Entrance to the Timken Museum of Art
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Location within San Diego
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Timken Museum of Art (California)
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Timken Museum of Art (the United States)
EstablishedOctober 1965 (1965-10)
Location1500 El Prado
San Diego, California, US
Coordinates 32°43′54″N117°08′59″W / 32.7318°N 117.1496°W / 32.7318; -117.1496
Type Art museum
FounderTimken family, Anne and Amy Putnam
DirectorMegan Pogue
Website www.timkenmuseum.org

The Timken Museum of Art is a fine art museum, established in 1965 and located at 1500 El Prado in Balboa Park in San Diego, California, close to the San Diego Museum of Art.



Portrait of Margaret Kemble Gage by John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) Margaret Kemble Gage.jpg
Portrait of Margaret Kemble Gage by John Singleton Copley (1738–1815)

The groundwork for the museum was laid in 1951 when Walter Ames helped sisters Amy and Anne Putnam (nieces and heirs of Henry W. Putnam) to form the nonprofit Putnam Foundation to own and manage their art collection. The sisters had settled in San Diego in the early 20th century and made donations to the San Diego Museum of Art in its early years. At first the foundation loaned items from its collection to noteworthy museums across the United States. [1] [2] When the Timken Museum opened in 1965, the Putnam Foundation Collection provided its initial material and Walter Ames became its first director. [3]

The museum building stands on the site of the former Home Economy Building, originally designed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and later known as the Pan-Pacific Building, the Cafe of the World, and the American Legion Building. That building was torn down in 1963 and replaced by the Timken Museum, which was designed by the architectural firm of Frank L. Hope and Associates and funded by the Timken family. [3] The museum is a white, modern building in marble and bronze housing a five-room gallery.

Shortly after the museum opened, John Walker, of the National Gallery of Art, praised its collection, some of which had been on loan at his institution until the Timken neared completion: [1]

"It is one of the finest small museums I have ever seen...I congratulate you on the discrimination shown. You have been wise. Some cities have built large museums, and then hoped that innumerable works of art of true excellence would miraculously appear. I am afraid they won't any longer. Money is not the problem. The problem is to find pictures to buy. I can't replace those which have come to San Diego. Paintings like these are virtually unavailable at any price." [1]


The museum displays European old master paintings, sculptures, and tapestries under natural light. [1] [4] Supplementing the European holdings are collections of American painting and Russian icons.

Acquisitions have expanded the collection from the original 40 to 60 major works, [1] [2] including ones by American (Copley, Johnson, West, Cole, Bierstadt), Italian (Savoldo, Veronese, Guercino and Savoldo's The Temptation of Saint Anthony ), Spanish (Murillo), and French masters (Clouet, Claude, Boucher, Fragonard, David, Corot), as well as works of the Flemish and Dutch schools, including masterpieces by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Frans Hals.

In 2015, in honor of the museum's 50th anniversary, the Timken acquired a Zurbarán 3/4 portrait of St. Francis in meditation. [5] [6] The Timken is the only San Diego museum with a Rembrandt in its permanent collection. [2]

The museum's founding benefactors, the Putnam sisters, were related to two Revolutionary War generals, Israel Putnam and Rufus Putnam. Coincidentally, one of the museum's most important acquisitions in recent decades is the John Singleton Copley painting of the woman who may well have triggered the Revolutionary War, Margaret Kemble Gage.

Selected works

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<i>The Temptation of Saint Anthony</i> (Savoldo) c. 1521 painting by Giovanni Girolamo Savoldo

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<i>Portrait of Marguerite de Sève</i> 1729 painting by Nicolas de Largillière

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<i>Portrait of a Young Man in Armor</i> Painting by Peter Paul Rubens

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Davenport, William (1966). Fine Art Treasures in the West . Menlo Park, California: Lane Magazine & Book Company. pp.  31–33.
  2. 1 2 3 "History of Timken Museum of Art". Timken Museum of Art. Archived from the original on 30 April 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  3. 1 2 "The Timken". Modern San Diego. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  4. Loebl, Suzanne (2002). America's art museums: a traveler's guide to great collections large and small. W.W. Norton & Co., Inc. p. 83. ISBN   9780393320060.
  5. sguillen (3 February 2016). "- Timken Museum".
  6. Chute, James (30 October 2015). "Timken Museum purchases Zurbarán masterwork". San Diego Union Tribune. Retrieved 1 August 2016.