The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant Garde: 1860 – 1900: Palace of the Legion of Honour, San Francisco, California

Published April 10, 2012 by goyodelarosa

Love and the Maiden





5 comments on “The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant Garde: 1860 – 1900: Palace of the Legion of Honour, San Francisco, California


    When the ‘Palace of the Legion of Honour’, in San Francisco was mentioned [above], I immediately recalled a lovely visit I paid to that beautiful ‘City by the Bay’ in April of 1997. My dear pal, Gregory Paul Hartnell, was completing a degree in history there, at the University of San Francisco, and his mother and my beloved friend, Sheila Turnbull Hartnell (may her name be a blessing to all), decided to meet in SF and attend a ceremony in which Gregory was honoured for his scholarship on the Dean’s list, just prior to his graduation.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t travel with Sheila because of my thrifty nature — she flew from Victoria at a reasonable time of day and stayed at a charming hotel near Union Square. I arrived a couple of days before Sheila; Gregory kindly interrupted his studies and arranged a VERY modestly priced B&B placement with some interesting retired people in the USF area.

    I arrived at the San Francisco International Airport late on Saturday evening, a time familiar to those using ‘airmiles’ and arrived an hour later then expected — some problem with landing. Gregory and my landlord for the visit, Mr. Smalley, came all the way out to the airport (perhaps 20 miles?) to pick me up. Gregory ran in to fetch me while my B&B host waited in his old station wagon. When G. saw I was sitting with a young women and a pleasant man of similar age to her, who I had met in transit, he ran out to ask Mr. S. if he could give them a ride into downtown San Francisco.

    This gives the reader a glimpse of the kind of hospitality I was treated to during this visit, from beginning to end. As for my two traveling companions (who also met for the first time on the flight, but appeared to be developing an almost instant crush), I certainly couldn’t recommend them. They did seem perfect like perfect ‘young lovers’ and neither of them had firm travel plans.

    My host took them under his wing in his large automobile, if that’s possible, Mr. S. took them to a youth hostel in downtown S.F. (no doubt ascertaining that there were separate accommodations for men and women) then drove G. and I to his B & B. There, Mrs. Smalley was STILL UP, it must have been after 1:00 am, and had milk, cookies & chocolate chip ice cream on offer. It was impossible to refuse— although I got away with a small bowl of ice cream. Poor Gregory, he was supposed to be spending the evening studying, but instead he headed home to his student ‘digs’ after 2:00 am.

    Now we have finally arrived at the bit about the Palace of the Legion of Honour in San Francisco.

    The next day, Gregory came over and scooped my up from my B & B for morning Mass and a meeting with a student friend of his who was a nun. We never did find out about the two ‘love birds’ but we did have a magical day ourselves, We went for juice & muffins, then jumped on a bus & went to the Palace of the Legion of Honour for several hours. It was wonderful, especially for people like me who often enjoy beautiful figurative art, created by the marvelous artists of the last few centuries, (while I attempt to express myself in an abstract manner, in acrylics on canvas).

    It was a warm day in April, with a soft breeze, and while I did so enjoy the paintings in the immense galleries of which the Palace of the Legion is composed, I loved the sculpture gardens surrounding the impressive buildings. The bronze images created by Auguste Rodin where a highlight. Gregory was a tremendously fine companion on this excursion as his comprehensive knowledge of visual art is profound, as is his ability to marry works of art and their creators with their particular historical periods and biographical information.

    After our visit to the Palace we wandered around an area of San Francisco with which I was not familiar (near U of SF, perhaps) and Gregory introduced me to a huge book store, with both new & used books. I forgot my travel budget there, I confess but, unfortunately, I can’t recall the name of the store — maybe Green’s? We ate dinner at a Persian restaurant — also new to me and very delicious. It sounds like all we did was eat, but I did SO MUCH walking, up & down SO MANY HILLS, I lost ten pounds in less than a week.

    I must end this ramble. Gregory returned to his studies on Monday and I wandered around the parts of San Francisco with which I was familiar — I love North Beach, with its Little Italy and its former ‘beatnik’ environs. Sheila arrived on Tuesday (I was in front of the hotel waiting for her); Gregory was honoured by his university on Wednesday — which we followed by a celebratory dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf. While G. was in class, Sheila and I had some grand adventures — in shopping & chatting.

    Sheila Hartnell is very dear to me. Unfortunately, I have been unable to write about her at length since she passed. Tears still get in the way, but the joy of a good friendship is written on the heart.

    I do send Sheila, all her friends, loved ones & of course the family she loved so much, many prayers & blessings in this holy season. And now they all have moved on from their financial interest in the hotel, may all of Sheila’s children find new projects that will excite their creativity and enrich their spirits.

    Marnie Berger
    Victoria, BC, Canada

    word count 995

    (Please do GOOGLE: Palace of the Legion of Honour in San Francisco, for more information)

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