Best of 2000: Best Free (And Underrated) Museum

The Timken Museum of Art
1500 El Prado, Balboa Park
(619) 239-5548

The product of the Putnam sisters' taste and generosity, the museum's works are organized by "national schools." Half the space is dedicated to religious art: the Spaniard Murillo's 17th-century crucifixion hangs near 14th- and 15th-century Italian triptychs and altarpieces, followed by a roomful of Russian iconography dating from the 1300s. The other half houses American, French, and Dutch/Flemish paintings. Roam into the American section to view the Timken's newest masterpiece and recent acquisition, John Peto's In the Library (1900), which moves center stage later this year. Travel next door to the French room for classic portraiture, where lifesize messieurs and mesdemoiselles from the 18th Century might reach out to shake your hand; then wander toward the Dutch Master's Saint Bartholomew, where you'll note, at tour's end, that Rembrandt's in very fine company. Here's the kicker: it's free. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Sunday 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

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