The Fine Arts Museums’ collection of European paintings is showcased throughout the elegant Beaux-Arts architecture of the Legion of Honor’s galleries. The Legion’s rich collection of more than 800 European paintings includes masterpieces from the 14th to the early 20th centuries. The approximately 250 paintings on view present a survey of artistic accomplishments by Europe’s leading masters, from Fra Angelico to Claude Monet.
The Legion’s permanent collection reflects a history of patronage by its founders, Adolph B. and Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, whose particular collecting focus was 18th- and 19th-century French art. Additional early donors of note include Archer M. Huntington, Mildred Anna Williams, and Albert Campbell Hooper, whose generosity fashioned the collection’s early character. The Roscoe and Margaret Oakes collection brought highlights in Dutch, Flemish, French, and British art of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including works by Georges de la Tour, Thomas Gainsborough, Henry Raeburn, Joshua Reynolds, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Rembrandt van Rijn. A selection of important paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection brought with it major works by Pieter de Hooch, El Greco, and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. A memorial gift from Dr. T. Edward and Tullah Hanley added paintings by Edgar Degas, Théodore Géricault, and Édouard Manet, among others. The collection continues to grow and expand through gifts and acquisitions, including paintings by Gustave Caillebotte, Laurent de la Hyre, Eugène Delacroix, and Édouard Vuillard.