Timken Museum of Art

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1500 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101
|
Open:
10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Tuesday - Saturday)
12 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Sunday)
Closed Mondays
The Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park contains high quality masterpieces painting from Europe, Russia & America in its permanent and rotating collections.
Todd Sarouhan
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means if you make purchases through them, I may be compensated at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
Timken Museum of Art
A Beautiful World Museum
What to Expect
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Exhibits & Attractions
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Tips for a Great Visit
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Tips
Exhibits / Attractions
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Tips

The Beautiful World of the Timken Museum of Art

Russian Icon Gallery at the Timken Museum of ArtRembrant Van Rijn Painting at the Timken Museum of Art

Located in the Balboa Park, San Diego, the Timken Museum of Art curates an impressive collection of European and American masterpieces.

Many of its finest European works belong to the early Renaissance and feature paintings by such masters as Rubens and Rembrandt and tapestries by Antoine Caron. Spanish, Dutch and Flemish, French and Italian pieces of art make up a large part of the museum.

Other works highlight the artistic canon of Russian icons. Early works of Russian artists are focused on religious iconography from the 16th century.

The mature works of early American painters such as Moran, Bierstadt and Benjamin West are represented in the collection. Many of the most iconic works date from the 18th and 19th centuries and feature American landscapes on oil and canvas.

The building provides a quiet space for art lovers to view timeless art works. Tours and lectures help visitors enjoy the art.

While the Timken Museum is predominantly a fine arts gallery, it’s also home to a selection of contemporary art. Many of these pieces are part of rotating exhibits. A series of visiting exhibitions bring in other distinguished works to promote an ongoing dialogue on the role of art in the world.

Just by setting foot in this San Diego museum, you can feel the history of not only the works, but the building as well. The Timken dates back to 1965, and the building itself is a work of art!

The collection of art is housed in an attractive building constructed in a style known as midcentury southern California modernism. The materials of travertine, bronze and glass showcase the symmetry and balance of the building, while the grounds add to its appeal with a lily pond and gardens.

Free Entrance to the Timken Museum of Art
Free Entrance to the Timken Museum of Art

Making the Most of the Area

The Timken is located in the lovely Balboa Park. Home to walking trails, cafes and the world-famous San Diego Zoo, the area is also home to over a dozen different museums and attractions.

For the full experience, pre-purchase a Go City San Diego pass with our discount code, GVSD5OFF, which lets you save on admission to many of the attractions in the area.

Some great picks for art lovers are The San Diego Museum of Art and Institute of Contemporary Art San Diego / Central (ICA San Diego/Central), while history buffs will enjoy the San Diego History Center and the Museum of Us.

Looking up at the Solamar San Diego from the Street
Looking up at the Solamar San Diego from the Street

My Favorite Nearby Hotel

Hoping to stay for a few days? There are many hotels in nearby locations like Downtown San Diego or the Gaslamp Quarter but for me, I would choose Solamar San Diego.

The hotel was recently revamped to the Margaritaville Hotel San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. Newly refurbished and transitioned to a Margaritaville experience, the fun decor theme and playful atmosphere is among the first of its kind in urban West Coast areas.

What to Expect while Visiting

Admiring Art at the Timken Museum of Art
Admiring Art at the Timken Museum of Art

The commitment to quality art is apparent in every gallery in the Timken Museum of Art. The museum provides an intimate atmosphere where visitors can contemplate important pieces of art. The welcoming entryway to the building subtly announces that something special is housed just beyond the doorway.

Visitors can peruse the gallery at their own speed, enjoying the well-lit rooms and reading the information that accompanies each piece of art.

There are also opportunities for guided tours by knowledgeable docents. The tours are available in many languages and can be tailored for different ages. An audio tour option informs listeners on the art, artists and history of the collection.

Map of the Timken Museum of Art
Map of the Timken Museum of Art

Museum History

While at the Timken, I highly suggest taking a moment to admire the storied history of the museum as well. It all started with the art collection of the Putnam sisters, Amy and Anne.

The Putnam’s lawyer Walter Ames suggested the creation of the Putnam Foundation, which would allow the two sisters to purchase works of European fine art and showcase them in museums around the world. Eventually, their collection was large enough to warrant opening their own art museum.

To house the Putnam Family collection, they partnered with Henry Timken to found the Timken Museum of Art as a permanent home for these pieces.

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Japanese Friendship Garden
Japanese Friendship Garden
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Exhibits & Attractions at the Timken

Madona and Child Painting at the Timken Museum of Art
Madona and Child Painting at the Timken Museum of Art

The permanent collection at the Timken Museum of Art contains more than 50 pieces of renowned art from Europe, Russia and America.

The majority of the works are oil on canvas; oil on panel and tempera on panel works are also well represented. The paintings feature varied landscapes, portraits, still lifes and religious scenes.

This varied collection of fine art, spanning six centuries, reveals the many different styles and subject matter that have captivated artists during this time period. Major artists in the collection include Claude Lorrain, Guercino, Bartolomeo Veneto, Thomas Moran, Albert Bierstadt and Eastman Johnson.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also curates traveling exhibitions. In the past, the Timken Museum of Art has showcased many fascinating exhibits. Selections from the past have included:

  • Captivating Women, from the Dijkstra Collection
  • Masterpieces of Italian Drawings from the British Museum
  • Rococo Rivals and Revivals
  • Reconsidering Rembrandt: Night Watching

The museum is constantly refreshing their exhibitions, so be sure to check back to see what’s new. This is one museum that’s well worth multiple visits!

Live Art Conservation Project at the Timken Museum of Art
Live Art Conservation Project at the Timken Museum of Art

Boucher: Conservation in a Park

Ever wondered about the conservation process for works of art?

Much of the collection at the Timken Museum dates back hundreds of years, and has been carefully preserved to prevent damage to the artwork and the natural effects of wear over time. Take a peek at the strategies used to conserve these artworks with the Boucher: Conservation in a Park exhibit.

This exhibit is a partnership with the Balboa Art Conservation Center. For the first time, the museum will allow the public to witness the full restoration and conservation procedure, a process which is normally performed behind closed doors.

It will feature one of the museum’s earliest acquisitions, the large Lovers in a Park Rococo mural painted by François Bouche.

Kehinde Wiley, Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan (2015)

Based on the 17th-century painting of the same name by Anthony van Dyck, Kehinde Wiley’s modern interpretation of Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan reimagines and breathes new life into this piece from the classic canon.

Wiley is famous for his portraiture, and the new work purposefully and thoughtfully blends elements of classical European art and the new methods and perspectives of contemporary art. Wiley’s art invites questions about who gets to be memorialized in art and how the art world is continually evolving to highlight more diverse works by similarly diverse artists.

Educational Programs

Timken Museum of Art
Timken Museum of Art

The museum offers educational talks and lectures to engage the community with the art world. Online teaching tools provide resources for students so they can learn more about drawing and painting techniques. The information is taught by a teaching artist from the museum.

Guided tours provide information on the art in the museum and are tailored for the age of the students or visitors. The tours include discussions about the art and artists and they meet the requirements for Common Core.

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Tips for a Great Visit

Timken Museum of Art
Timken Museum of Art

I want to make sure you enjoy your visit to the museum. Below are a few things to know before you arrive.

Parking

The Timken Museum of Art is located within Balboa Park on the Plaza de Panama. Parking is available throughout the park with Alcazar, south and west of the museum, being the closest. Other options for parking include the following lots: Organ Pavilion, Inspiration Point and Palisades. A Balboa Park Tram can be used to get closer to the museum.

Arrange Tours & Tickets Ahead of Time

Tickets and tours should be arranged ahead of time to be sure what you are looking for does not sell out.

We suggest purchasing a Go City San Diego pass. This discount pass will get you into most of the museums’ in Balboa Park as well as over 55 other attractions and activities including the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld San Diego. You can even get an additional discount if you purchase the Go City San Diego Pass with our discount code GVSD5OFF.

Icons of the Mother of God at the Timken Museum of Art
Icons of the Mother of God at the Timken Museum of Art

Keep Quiet & Photos

Voices should be kept low in the galleries and no flash photography is allowed.

Free Coat & Bag Check

A complimentary coat check room is available for coats, backpacks and other bags.

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