Affectionately known as a “jewel box” of fine art, the Timken Museum of Art in San Diego’s historic Balboa Park is home to the Putnam Foundation’s world-class collection of European and American masterpieces. Located on the Plaza de Panama, it is the only art museum in Balboa Park with free admission.

The historical roots of the Timken date back to the early 1900s when Anne and Amy Putnam arrived in San Diego. The two sisters traveled widely, had a deeply felt love of fine art and spent decades acquiring European old master paintings for San Diego public collections. In 1951, the sisters established the nonprofit Putnam Foundation, and subsequent acquisitions became part of the Putnam Foundation Collection. 

In 1965, the Putnam Foundation Collection found its permanent home at the Timken Museum of Art. Designed by San Diego architect John Mock for Frank L. Hope and Associates, the museum building is considered one of the most important examples of mid-century southern California modernism, and one of the finest regional examples of the International Style in the United States. Constructed of travertine, bronze and glass, the building embraces the landscape of Balboa Park, which is visible from the lobby. The museum is acclaimed for the quality of the natural light illuminating its six intimate galleries created by the pioneer lighting designer Richard Kelly.



Timken visitors are treated to art without barriers. The museum’s scale encourages guests to take their time, to explore and look closely at the centuries of artistic genius.

The museum’s endowment provides for a gift to the community of free admission to see these masterworks of the western cultural tradition. Everything else—exhibitions, educational programs, conservation projects and other initiatives—are supported by the Friends of the Timken and other benefactors. Membership in the Friends of the Timken ensures the continued growth of the museum and the art in the Putnam Foundation Collection. We encourage you to support the mission of the museum by making a donation or becoming a member today.


John Wilson, PhD