Art and Design in Boston: A City of Firsts

Continuing on with the theme of Boston: A City of Firsts, let’s visit two great museums, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Museum of Fine Art.  A visit the the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a must do when visiting Boston.  This museum is not like any other museum I have visited.  I highly recommend going to listen to the “Introduction to the Gardner Museum Talk” held everyday except Tuesdays and Sundays at 12:30 and 2:30.  Here you will learn about Isabella’s life and her take on how she wanted her art displayed.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Museum is modeled after the Palazzo Barbaro in Venice, a place the Gardner’s frequently stayed.  The atrium is so beautiful and peaceful.  I could have sat there all day! The landscaping is changed nine times a year and I imagine on a cold Boston day it must be a delight to admire all of the pretty flowers growing inside.

Palazzo Barbaro

Palazzo Barbaro

Atruim

Atruim

 

Isabella had very particular feelings about how art should be displayed.  She felt museums with their neatly framed pictures and labels lined up on the wall, were mausoleums for dead art.  She wanted to stage her art, thus creating compositions. Each vignette invites guests to sit and admire furniture, art and even a swatch from her favorite ball gowns.  She left no notes explaining her compositions, so one is left to ones imagination why things are combined the way they are.

There is a fine cafe to enjoy, Cafe G.  It’s menu is based on ideas from the museum and its exhibitions.  It is bright and the food was quite good.  Another delight is the Living Room.  This is a space to relax and find out more information about the museum.

The Living Room

The Living Room

The new wing, designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, opened in January 2012.  Unlike the Museum, this space is open and feels contemporary.  It contains two apartments where artists in residence can work on their craft continuing Isabella’s wish to support up and coming artists.  It also hosts the longest running museum music program in the country with chamber music concerts every Sunday.

Entrance to the new wing

Entrance to the new wing

All in all, I liked the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and highly recommend a visit.

The other big museum in town is the Museum of Fine Arts.  It is a treasure trove of beautiful art.  Especially, American art.  One of my favorite artists is John Singer Sargent (1856–1925).  He was considered the leading portrait painter of his generation for his depiction of Edwardian era luxury.  His work can be seen in many parts of Boston not only at the MFA but also at the Gardner Museum and the Public Library on Copley Square.  

Mrs. Fiske Warren and her Daughter 1903 John Singer Sargent

Mrs. Fiske Warren and her Daughter (1903)
John Singer Sargent

Also on display at the MFA is “Rivals in Glass: Tiffany and La Farge.”  While bitter competitors, they both transformed the art and craft of stained glass.  They both claimed to have introduced the use of opalescent glass.  This allowed these artists to create vivid effects with the glass.  La Farge’s work is also on display at the Trinity Church on Copley Square.  Just walk towards the altar and turn around and look up.  It is stunning and pictures do not do it justice.  

Butterflies and Foilage (1889) John La Farge

Butterflies and Foilage (1889)
John La Farge

Parakeets and Gold Fish Bowl (1893) Louis Comfort Tiffany

Parakeets and Gold Fish Bowl (1893)
Louis Comfort Tiffany

Two other tips I got are to check out the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. They have exhibits open to the public that are brought in to inspire their students and can be quite good.  Also the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall has great concerts and events.  Besides being a National Landmark it was on the steps of Jordan Hall that Martin Luther King met his wife to be Corretta Scott.  

Boston is a rich city that celebrates art and culture.  Next Copley Square, a definite must do while in this city of firsts!

Links for the places mentioned in this blog:

www.gardnermuseum.org

www.gardnermuseum.org

www.massart.edu/

necmusic.edu/jordan-hall

 

 

 

 

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