San Diego Museum of Art

The San Diego Museum of Art is a fine arts museum near San Diego, CA, located at 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park. It has a diverse collection, emphasizing Spanish art, and is open to the public. When the San Diego Museum of Art first opened its doors on February 28, 1926, it was known as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego. It was renamed the San Diego Museum of Art in 1978. The San Diego Museum of Art, according to the official Balboa Park website, is “the region’s oldest and most significant art museum.” In any given year, the museum receives over half a million visitors.

Architecture firm William Templeton Johnson and Robert W. Snyder built the museum building in the plateresque style to complement the existing structures from the Panama–California Exposition of 1915. The heavily ornate door is inspired by an entryway at the University of Salamanca and is the most prominent feature of the façade. The Cathedral of Valladolid also influenced the exterior architecture of the museum, and the interior design was inspired by the Santa Cruz Hospital in Toledo, Spain, according to the architects.

San Diego Museum of Art

It took two years to complete the initial building. When the building was complete, it was donated to San Diego by its sponsor, Appleton S. Bridges. The museum’s size doubled in 1966 with the addition of a west wing and a sculpture court, and the addition of an east wing in 1974 further extended the museum’s exhibition space. Renovations on the rotunda, sculpture garden, façade, auditorium, and other features are currently in the works.

Its collections date from 5000 BC to 2012 AD, representing a wide range of periods. Murillo, Zurbarán, Cotán, Ribera, and El Greco are Spanish artists whose paintings are on display. The Putnam sisters, Anne, Amy, and Irene, generously donated a large portion of the museum’s old master collection. A major noteworthy acquisition for the museum was the purchase of Francisco Goya’s El Marques de Sofraga, which had previously been in a private family collection and had never been on public display. 

The acquisition was made possible by the financial support of the Putnam sisters. During the following year, director Reginald Poland added a portrait by Giovanni Bellini to the museum’s collection, which he had previously purchased. In 1941 the museum acquired a portrait of the Infanta Margarita of Spain by Diego Velázquez and was a study for a more extensive portrait later acquired by the Vienna State Museum. Mr. and Mrs. Archer M. Huntington, and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Timken, donated a small art collection to the museum in 1965 that is now in the nearby Timken Museum of Art; other major benefactors during the museum’s first quarter-century were 

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San Diego Museum of Art Gallery

Other Nearby Attractions


Balboa Park CA

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Restoration Champ of San Diego
Balboa Park

Located in San Diego, California, Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre historic urban cultural park with a rich history. There are numerous museums, multiple theaters, and the San Diego Zoo, surrounded by open space sections and natural plant zones. There are also walking pathways and gardens throughout the park. Read More

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