Tucked away behind the vast spread of the Museum of Fine Arts and protected from the commotion of Huntington Avenue, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a little bit of delight hidden away in an area of southern Boston. The grand house stands masked in vines and surrounded by a tall wall that protects the treasures inside. Despite its mystifying outside, this museum, which holds an impressive collection of art and artifacts spanning hundreds of years, serves as a cultural retreat for the city of Boston.
Recently, the museum focused its special exhibit on the creation of the museum and Isabella Stewart Gardner’s role in the growth of this unique gallery. The exhibit, which focuses on the entire process from the museum’s inspiration to the completion of construction, includes diaries and letters of Gardner as well as photographs, blueprints, artifacts and quotes from friends during the time of development. Each is well-documented and shows a cherished side of the museum and its creator.
Upon entering the exhibit, there are large copies of the blueprints for the museum and a quote from the diary of architect Willard T. Sears. The quote describes Gardner’s essential and sometimes persuasive role in building the museum, her frank rejection of some of the plans, and even her sacking of some of the masons. This outstanding opening to the exhibit sets the tone: Isabella Stewart Gardner, in spite of her straightforward control procedure, cared very much about the museum and its benefits for the people of Boston.
In addition to letters, blueprints and newspaper articles about the building of the museum, this collection also includes many of Gardner’s scrapbooks, sketches, family photographs and miniatures by her artist friends including Luisa Rabbia and John Singer Sergeant. Luisa Rabbia’s first exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Travels with Isabella also provides an interesting and unexpected contemporary look at Isabella Gardner’s historic and fabled travels around the world The scrapbooks were the most appealing part of the collection because they revealed the influences that shaped the museum. The pages showed papyrus from Egypt and watercolors from China as well as written entries about each place.
Isabella Stewart Gardner’s travels heavily influenced her collection and the architecture of the museum. Her travels to Italy inspired the columns and arches in the walls of the magnificent courtyard, and visits to Asia gave her ideas about plants and flowers that show in the outdoor gardens at the museum. In addition to the architecture, the art itself follows themes from her experiences.
The most striking part of this museum, though, is the immensity of the art. It does not only hang on the walls but is integrated into every aspect of the house, the furniture and the architecture. The special exhibit highlights her relationship with Bernard Berenson, a young yet innovative art critic who was influential in the growth of her collection. He worked diligently to find the perfect pieces to add to the collection while she used her amazing sense of taste and design to put it into a inclusive museum collection.
Through reviews and research, a visit to this museum is like no other. It is awesome to see the number of priceless treasures so beautifully arranged within the walls of this cultural sanctuary. The special exhibit adds to the experience by providing a detailed history of the museum and all its charm. Isabella Stewart Gardner’s dream of creating a unique cultural experience has certainly been realized, and will hopefully stay vibrant for centuries and centuries to come. Truly an invaluable spectacle of Boston Art in my opinion. The YouTube video below gives some insight of Luisa Rabbia, Enjoy!
ARTISTSWELOVE: Luisa Rabbia. (n.d.). Retrieved from artwelove.com: http://shop.artwelove.com/artist/Luisa-Rabbia
Museum, G. (n.d.). Gardner Museum. Retrieved from http://www.gardnermuseum.org/contemporary_art
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