Monday, June 13, 2011

Boston's Gem: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Celebrate New England Giveaway, Post #2. Leave a comment and enter to win!

Boston's Gem: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum by Victoria Morgan

One can't truly celebrate New England, as Penelope is doing this week, without a shout out to Boston's own Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Tucked away in the Fenway district of the city, the Gardner Museum is one of Boston's greatest gems. Unique, enriching and dazzling!

Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-19240) was one of the foremost female patrons of the art during her lifetime. For over three decades, she traveled the world to amass one of the most remarkable collections of fine art and decorative artifacts existing today. Her acquisitions include over 2,500 paintings, sculptures, textiles, tapestries, furniture, manuscripts, and rare books.

Titian, Rembrandt, Raphael, Degas, Boticelli, and Sargent, and many more of the great art masters grace her walls. However, Gardner considered her acquisition of Titian's Europa (1560-62) her greatest find (above). The painting depicts Jupiter disguised as a bull and abducting Europa, who appears both frightened and excited. The museum's audiotape asks the patron to decide if Europa's stance makes her complicit in her abduction or not.... While this may be Gardner's favorite, I am drawn to John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo (1882) depicted below. This painting with its vibrant Spanish gypsy dancer graces the end of a long hallway known as the Spanish cloister and brings it alive with movement, vitality and excitement. You feel as if the dancer will spin out into the room.

The museum is particularly unique for its backdrop of the works is a magnificent three-story building constructed to look like a 15th century Venetian-style palace. Gardner personally designed each gallery herself and to bring light into the concrete building, she had the rooms surround a central courtyard housing a luscious garden. Touring the museum with Penelope, who has a degree in botany and a gifted green thumb, Penelope reminded me that not all of the museum's art is on the walls or inanimate, but flowering in this incredible courtyard. She pointed out the myriad of different ferns, flowers, and other exotic plants that the museum rotates as each season changes.

While touring the treasure trove of works, it is hard not to be shocked when one encounters the glaringly empty frames that housed some of the thirteen works of art stolen March 18, 1990 and that are still yet to be recovered. The museum's audio defines the theft as a 'crime against humanity' and I have to agree. Of those taken, Rembrandt's Sea of Galilee (1633) was Rembrandt's only seascape ever painted, and Vermeer's The Concert (1658-1660) is one of only 34 surviving Vermeer's. Isabella Stewart Gardner opened the museum "for the education and enrichment of the public forever," and the theft's greatest crime is the loss of these works to public view.

So when you make that coveted trip to Boston, be sure to include the Gardner Museum -- it won't disappoint. And for your next visit, the Museum of Fine Arts is right around the corner. Their new $500 million Art of the America's Wing opened this year to critical acclaim. In the Globe's recent review of the launch, they stated the wing was named the year's "outstanding permanent collection new installation (or reinstallation)" by the Association of Art Museum Curators.

But that's for another blog.....

Victoria Morgan
RWA Golden Heart Finalist 2011