Roxana Velásquez, Executive Director of the Museum, on Sorolla

The San Diego Museum of Art announced Monday the acquisitions of two major Spanish paintings and will celebrate with free public admission on the last weekends of January and February.

Francisco de Zurbarán, “St. Francis in Prayer in a Grotto,” circa 1655.

The two paintings are St. Francis in Prayer in a Grotto by Francisco de Zurbarán and By the Seashore, Valencia by Joaquín Sorolla y BastidaSt. Francis will be on view beginning Jan. 21 and By the Seashore on Feb. 26..

The acquisitions were made possible by generous donations from Conrad Prebys and Debbie Turner, in the case of the Zurbarán, and the Legler Benbough Foundation, whose donation led to the acquisition of the Sorolla.

“The San Diego Museum of Art is thrilled to welcome these masterpieces into the permanent collection and further build on our holdings of Spanish art,” said Roxana Velásquez, executive director of the museum.

Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, “By the Seashore, Valencia, “1908.

“To have philanthropists like Conrad Prebys, Debbie Turner, and the Legler Benbough Foundation, value the importance of art is a true gift to San Diego. These works will be enjoyed for generations to come.”

Spanning the centuries from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism, the museum’s collection of Spanish masterpieces is among the finest in the world. The façade of the museum itself includes life-sized sculptures of Velázquez, Murillo, and Zurbarán. And its upstairs galleries include significant paintings by El Greco, Sánchez Cotán, and Juan de Valdes Leal, among others.

In 2015, the museum will celebrate 100 years of art in Balboa Park. In addition to a series of exhibitions and programs, the Museum will call attention to the value and significance of its own history and permanent collection, which began with a donation of Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida’s Maria at la Granja by Archer Milton Huntington, the founder of the Hispanic Society of America.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.