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Jewel City: Art from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition

Edwin Deakin, Palace of Fine Arts and the Lagoon, ca. 1915. Oil on canvas. Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, long-term loan from the California Department of Finance

Edwin Deakin, Palace of Fine Arts and the Lagoon, ca. 1915. Oil on canvas. Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, long-term loan from the California Department of Finance

Erin Garcia
Director of Public Relations
tel: 415.750.8904 cell: 510.364.1304
Miriam Newcomer
Public Relations Manager
tel: 415.750.3554 cell: 310.592.5238

October 17, 2015 ‒ January 10, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO (August 18, 2014)—The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are pleased to announce Jewel City: Art from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, on view at the de Young from October 17, 2015, through January 10, 2016. Celebrating the centennial of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) in San Francisco, this exhibition revisits a vital moment in the inauguration of the city as a cultural center on the West Coast.

The PPIE was the world’s fair hosted by San Francisco in 1915 to celebrate both the opening of the Panama Canal and the city’s reconstruction following the great 1906 earthquake. At the heart of the PPIE was one of the most ambitious art exhibitions ever presented in the United States, including impressive surveys and mini-retrospectives of American artists and extensive offerings of European painting and sculpture drawn from international public and private collections.

The French Pavilion at the PPIE—which would later inspire the construction of the California Palace of the Legion of Honor—was housed in a building modeled on the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris. Alma de Bretteville Spreckels, who would be the force behind the creation of San Francisco’s Legion of Honor, which opened in 1924, was the most important American lender to the French Pavilion.

“The Panama-Pacific International Exposition shook the cultural landscape of California, and its aftershocks are still being felt throughout San Francisco’s museum community,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “The birth of the Legion of Honor and a major expansion of the Memorial Museum (now the de Young) in Golden Gate Park followed in the wake of this influential event. The PPIE helped encourage an insatiable appetite for art in this region and led to the establishment of San Francisco as a serious and dynamic hub of cultural activity in the western United States.”

Jewel City will present a series of galleries devoted to the artistic venues of the fair—the Palace of Fine Arts, the French Pavilion, and the Fine Arts Annex—reassembling more than 200 works by major American and European artists, most of which were on display at this defining event.

Among the featured works will be Winslow Homer’s Saco Bay (1896), a dramatic seascape set near the artist’s home at Prouts Neck, Maine, as well as Reconnoitering (1911) by John Singer Sargent, a portrait of a fellow painter in the Italian Alps. Jewel City will also display etchings by James McNeill Whistler and John Sloan, in addition to photographs by Ansel Adams, Paul Strand, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham.

Joining these highlights of American art will be French works such as Camille Pissarro’s Houses at Bougival (Autumn) (1870), one of a number of important French Impressionist paintings lent to the 1915 Exposition by the legendary Galerie Durand-Ruel. Also on view will be The Age of Bronze (ca. 1875‒1877) by Auguste Rodin, Europe’s most famous living sculptor at the time, and an artist whose work would eventually become a celebrated part of the permanent collection at the Legion of Honor.

“The curatorial team has spent countless hours assembling this ambitious exhibition that recreates highlights of the original Exposition of 1915,” said James Ganz, curator of the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and lead curator of Jewel City. “Our efforts to identify and locate actual works of art shown in the PPIE have led from our own storerooms to as far away as Budapest, Hungary. In a way, this undertaking has mirrored the intense activity of the original organizers as we follow in their footsteps to bring to San Francisco a compelling array of significant works by American and European artists.”

Exhibition Organization

This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. President’s Circle: Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund. Benefactor’s Circle: National Endowment for the Arts. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Exhibition Catalogue

The Fine Arts Museums are producing a scholarly catalogue to accompany the exhibition with essays by James Ganz and 12 additional contributors, who will examine the PPIE’s art program in depth. Featuring approximately 300 illustrations, it is the first publication to focus specifically on the fair’s art exhibitions and will be available in hardcover and paperback starting in October 2015.


de Young

Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco

Open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays; 9:30 a.m.–8:45 p.m. Fridays (April 17–November 27); open select holidays; closed most Mondays

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and was established as 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 was inspired by the French Pavilion, a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. 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.

Images from all exhibitions and museums available upon request.

Media Contacts

Erin Garcia (egarcia@famsf.org)
Miriam Newcomer (mnewcomer@famsf.org)