Current Exhibition 

 Metonymies: A Dialogue with Twentieth-Century Works from the Sonnabend Collection

On view February 8 – April 28, 2019

Ileana Sonnabend (1914-2007) was a gallerist and connoisseur of twentieth-century art.  Through her legendary galleries in Paris and New York, Sonnabend helped establish the global reputations of many young artists: Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jeffrey Koons, to name only a few. Like the Timken’s founders, the Putnam sisters, Sonnabend brought a remarkably independent perspective to her personal collecting practice. Upon her death, she left an invaluable trove of modern masterworks to a foundation that bears her name, as well as to her family.  Metonymies—from the Greek word for substitution—exchanges well-known works from the Timken’s permanent collection with unique objects from the Sonnabend Foundation Collection and Antonio Homen. This exhibition represents the first time that these works from the Sonnabend Collection are being shown publicly in San Diego.

Past Exhibitions

 Rococo Rivals and Revivals

On view September 21 - December 30, 201

The Timken Museum of Art is proud to present its upcoming fall exhibition Rococo, Rivals and Revivals. Composed of 12 objects, paintings, drawings and prints, featuring regional, national and international loans, this exhibition will be presenting, for the first time in Southern California, a global vision on the different personalities and schools of Rococo. If this aesthetically pleasing genre has become one of the public’s favorite, it is almost impossible to reunite the main actors of this play under one roof, as if the rivalry between them had been passed throughout the centuries – not unlike the protagonists depicted in The Italian Comediansby Antoine Watteau, on loan from the National Gallery, Washington D.C. It is at the Timken that those masters will be presented and confronted to each other, where you will be able to contemplate and compare their similarities - and their differences. Watteau’s investigation of the commedia dell’artesubject matter represents a critical component to the exhibition’s overall narrative with his innovative combination of reality and artifice. The dialogue established between these masterpieces and those of Boucher and Fragonard, who are also represented at the Timken, surely will be interesting, as it is the first time this rare instance of the three most prominent Rococo painters will be exhibited together in San Diego.

Paired with contemporary representations by Yinka Shonibare, Chris Antemann and others, Rococo, Rivals and Revivalsis offering an unconventional spin on the typical subject matter of flirtation and seduction, common during the Rococo period, fantasized in a world where reality and artifice meet.

 Jewels of the Season

On view November 30 - December 30, 2018

The famous Timken Jewels of the Season will once again adorn the museum’s rotunda. 

This famous holiday installation was launched in 2016 in partnership with San Diego State University School of Theatre, Television and Film, and MSI Production Services. Inc.. This custom multimedia holiday installation will showcase the exquisite ornaments designed by San Diego artists Florence Hord and Elizabeth Schlappi. Model trains from the San Diego Model Railroad Museum will travel thoughout the lobby and heighten the festive atmosphere.

Each ornament features semi-precious gems, sequins, stones, and filigree collected around the world by the two artists. Often compared to Faberge eggs, the elaborate designs and patterns require the artist to work anywhere from two days to two weeks to create one single ornament.  This holiday show that became a staple of the San Diego holidays traditions, highlights decades of craftsmanship – with a contemporary twist!


Leela - Portrait Of A Woman In A Green Dress

June 5th to September 16, 2018

With the first days of summer approaching, the Timken becomes, once again, the theater of the/modernist installation, turning its galleries into a playground for a contemporary visual artist.

This year, the museum has a real treat: our artist is none other than Bhavna Mehta -named Emerging Artist for the San Diego Art Prize in 2014, who will be the Timken’s artist-in-residence during the month of June, providing visitors the unique opportunity to observe the intricate process of her artistic creation. While in the museum, Bhavna and her assistant will be finishing the last touches to Leela – Portrait of A Woman in a Green Dress, a 3-dimensional artwork on display this summer, echoing the Timken’s Portrait of a Lady by Bartolomeo Veneto.

Leela - Portrait Of A Woman in A Green Dress: the history. 

It was back in December 2017 that the Timken’s Portrait of a Lady in a Green Dressfirst caught Bhavna’s eye. She was so intrigued by her sculptural presence, that Bhavna felt compelled to pay homage to her - “with absolutely no intent on copying”. As for the name of her lady, it came from Bhavna’s memories; growing up, she often heard the Sanskrit word Leela which means cosmic play. Leela also comes from the word leelo which means green in Bhavna's mother tongue Gujarati.

And for obvious reasons: unlike Bartolomeo’s Portrait of a Lady, - enclosed in the border of a heavy Venetian frame, stuck in a two-dimensional world with heavy clothing she seems trapped within - Bhavna’s paper Leela will be floating in the museum’s central rotunda. The light wind coming from the museum doors will caress her delicate paper dress, allowing her to dance in the air; her head, surrounded by buzzing paper dragonflies and butterflies infused with her ideas and dreams, embracing her as the center of her own universe. 

Living just a few feet away (and right before her eyes), Leela offers a contrasting narrative to Veneto’s Portrait of a Lady. “It’s a powerful dialogue offered by those two women, similar, and yet so different.” says Bhavna. “I dream that behind the scenes, when the museum closes its doors, the two women meet halfway and get to know each other”. A dream Bhavna Mehta invites us all to share. 

Artist-in-Residence: June 4 – June 24, 2018
Leela Exhibition on Display: June 29 – September 16, 2018

 The Romantic Impulse In the American Landscape Tradition

On View January 26 to June 3, 2018

The Romantic Impulse in the American Landscape Tradition traces the unique responses of American painters and printmakers to changing ideas about landscape from the early 19th century to the present day.  The exhibition centers on the Timken's own painting by Thomas Moran, Opus 24: Rome, from the Campagna, Sunset (1867),  and considers how sublime space, ancient ruins and pastoral poetics were expressed by a surprisingly wide variety of artists: Albert Bierstadt, Arthur Wesley Dow, William Keith and others.  Works from the Timken, USD's print collection, and various private lenders will be included.

The Romantic Impulse in the American Landscape Tradition: A Soundscape

Nuvi Mehta, Project Director, San Diego Symphony

Works in this exhibition elicit a sense of awe at the beauty and majesty of nature, as well as a sense of nostalgia for the distant past. In identifying music to accompany the paintings and prints, I turned to the Romantic-era composers, much as the artists shown here turned to earlier examples of European landscape painters for their inspiration.

 The soundscape plays on a 30-minute loop.

Ottorino Respighi wrote Pines of Rome in 1924. This is the third movement - Pines on the Janiculum Hill. If you think you hear birds, you do. Respighi incorporated them into his original recording of Pines of Rome. Here, I took the liberty of extending their singing into other areas of the sound track.    

  1. One of the last large scale Romantic masterworks was Richard StraussAn Alpine Symphony, written between 1911 and 1914. In music, Strauss depicts a hike in the Alps he had taken as a boy, including the moment when the party he was with became lost and then soaked during a thunderstorm.
  2. In 1879, having finally had some success, Antonin Dvorak, sent Johannes Brahms’ publisher a new suite. The incorporation of Czech folk music flavors this particular composition, and the work soon became known as the Czech Suite. Dvorak subtitled the first movement Pastorale. It is meant to invoke a pastoral setting.
  3. Années de pèlegrinage (Years of Pilgrimage) is a set of three suitesfor solo piano by Franz Liszt. After a period of extended travel abroad, Liszt was inspired by Italian poetry, and especially by Petrarch’s 123rd sonnet, which he set to music:

On earth reveal'd the beauties of the skies,
Angelic features, it was mine to hail;
Features, which wake my mingled joy and wail,
While all besides like dreams or shadows flies.
And fill'd with tears I saw those two bright eyes,
Which oft have turn'd the sun with envy pale;

And from those lips I heard—oh! such a tale,
As might awake brute Nature's sympathies!
Wit, pity, excellence, and grief, and love
With blended plaint so sweet a concert made,
As ne'er was given to mortal ear to prove:
And heaven itself such mute attention paid,
That not a breath disturb'd the listening grove—
Even æther's wildest gales the tuneful charm obey'd.

  1. Charles Tomlinson Griffes was born in Elmira, NY in 1884. He studied in Germany, and wrote in the German Romantic tradition before incorporating more impressionist techniques upon returning to the United States. The inspiration for The White Peacock—once described as the most beautiful piece of American music ever written-- came to Griffes as he watched a sunset while riding the train from Tarrytown to New York.
  2. Camille Saint- Saens finished his Symphony No. 3 (with Organ) in 1886. Saint-Saëns said "I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again.” We hear excerpts of the slow Maestoso or ‘majestic’ section


This exhibition is made possible by our generous supporters:
Collection of Sandy and Bram Dijkstra
Friends of the Timken
Collection of Angel and Fred Kleinbub
Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Rembrandt Society
San Diego City Commission for Arts and Culture
San Diego Symphony
Supervisor Ron Roberts, County of San Diego
Fine Art Collection, University of San Diego
Print Collection, University of San Diego

Image: Thomas Moran, Opus 24: Rome, from the Campagna, Sunset, 1867, oil on canvas, 63.5 x 114.6 cm (25 x 45 1/8 in.), Timken Museum of Art

Past Exhibitions and Installations