Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum





Hello! So I visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston on my recent trip to Massachusetts. I think the Museum merits its own post, though I will say I breezed through it on a time constraint of just over an hour, and I would love to go back again and absorb some more of the history and art of the place.

It is a museum I had always heard about but being Boston adjacent in my younger years meant I never got beyond the more completist Museum of Fine Arts (very nearby, just across the street, if you are planning a Boston trip I think you could manage both of these museums in a day easily).





The museum, known for its impressive collection of fine art and interiors, is also infamous for being the victim of one of the worst art thefts in history in 1990. Approximately $500 million worth of paintings, including rare works by Vermeer and Rembrandt, were stolen in what remains an unsolved FBI investigated crime. I can't believe a film hasn't been made about it!

The museum continues to pay reverence to the lost art by keeping the empty frames on display where the art was once displayed on the walls - this alone has become a sort of art buff's curio/scene of the crime attraction. Unfortunately when I visited the gallery where these works would have been displayed was closed for a major refurbishment (they had moved a few of the more notable paintings for display in a different gallery).

The renowned, debatably eccentric personality of its benefactor Isabella Gardner is something the museum makes a point of referencing and paying homage to - among her eccentricities included a passionate love for the Boston Red Sox, she apparently wore a Red Sox headband to a rather fancy gala and caused quite a stir! The museum pays respect to this by offering anyone wearing Red Sox gear a $2 discount - also worth noting is if you are lucky enough to be named Isabella, you get in free!




What most impressed me about this museum along with art was...well, everything about it! Its layout is themed, with a Venetian Room, a Spanish room, a Blue Room etc. Each room really has a personality all its own. The details of the building itself are also pleasingly opulent, from the breathtaking Courtyard Garden to the marble stairs and tiled floors, the ornate tapestries, it manages to feel somehow homely yet luxurious all at once. It's rather special! With my time constraint I could only afford to pause and read a handful of the wealth of information provided behind each and every piece.






While the museum is unquestionably European in feel and much of its collection, I also enjoyed the artwork of American artists I had never heard of before like Dodge McKnight - a particular favourite of Mrs. Gardner's, possibly because of the very European flavour of many of his watercolours! Gardner was a wealthy socialite who from the outside might seem to have lived an enviable life, but it was not without tragedy. She lost a child and was unable to have any more, which led to a depression that the art world of Europe seems to have drawn her out of. Her tastes were eclectic and opulent, which I kind of love.

I think my favourite thing about this museum, if pressed, is how magical yet also inviting it feels. It is definitely a place where you want to linger and absorb it all, whether to gawp at the gardens our the art, to linger in Venetian splendour or Gothic drama, and I think that is pretty special. I really hope I get to go back someday!







8 comments

  1. Oh gosh, from that first photo! LOVE it when it feels that that plants would take over in a second if they weren't manicured. Not sure if that has a name. It could also be because I live in a land of drought so no worries about the yard becoming a jungle. I told my husband I want our living room to have a "botanical feel" and he was like what is that even. I may be paraphrasing ;)

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    1. Yeah, I have always been a fan of plant overgrowth/ivy/decay/Grey Gardens/ Floridian tropical madness situations! A botanical living room sounds awesome!:-)

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  2. I went to this museum last year and absolutely loved it. What a magical place, so beautiful. Also a really lovely cafe and shop in a modern glass extension. I keep thinking about it all the time as it is like nowhere else.

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    1. Isn't it wonderful? I didn't have time to linger/have a coffee, explore the rest of the garden bits (I think some of the were closed?). Next time!

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  3. I loved it there! Little garden is magical! This place has such a tranquil vibe about it. Iga x

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  4. Wow, this is amazing! I definitely could go here - sadly maybe less for the art and more for just the building and the "area" and the feel of the place. Is that bad? It looks to feel like the kind of place you want to go to and just walk up to the walls and press yourself against and feel like you can feel history seeping into your skin.

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    1. Not bad at all! I prefer museums like this that have personality/feel lived in too :-)

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