Thursday, October 18, 2007

Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum

Our journey continued to the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum. I am embarassed to admit this was my first visit to this magical place - first opened in 1903, the museum consists of three floors of galleries (filled with paintings, sculpture, tapestries, furniture and decorative arts from cultures spanning thirty centuries) surrounding a luscious garden courtyard. Never before have I seen works by Raphael, Botticelli and Sargeant (to name a few) in such an intimate setting. Words cannot descibe how much I love this museum...

Isabella Stewart Gardner, known also as "Mrs. Jack" in reference to her husband, John L. ("Jack") Gardner, was one of the foremost female patrons of the arts. She was a patron and friend of leading artists and writers of her time, including John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler and Henry James. She was a supporter of community social services and cultural enrichment. She was an ardent fan of the Boston Symphony, the Red Sox and Harvard College football. Isabella Stewart Gardner was also the visionary creator of what remains one of the most remarkable and intimate collections of art in the world today and a dynamic supporter of artists of her time, encouraging music, literature, dance and creative thinking across artistic disciplines.

Over three decades, Isabella Stewart Gardner traveled the world and worked with important art patrons and advisors Bernard Berenson and Okakura Kakuzo to amass a remarkable collection of master and decorative arts. In 1903, she completed the construction of Fenway Court in Boston to house her collection and provide a vital place for Americans to access and enjoy important works of art. Mrs. Gardner installed her collection of works in a way to evoke intimate responses to the art, mixing paintings, furniture, textiles and objects from different cultures and periods among well-known
European paintings and sculpture.

I greatly admire Mrs. Gardner for her vision and passion for exposing the public to the amazing collection she worked to acquire. Stepping into her world, one cannot deny, the arts are an integral part of a sustainable world.

p.s. the images above have been taken from the ISGM website. Camera's were not allowed for security reasons.
On the night of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and roamed the galleries, stealing thirteen works of art, including: Rembrandt's Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), A Lady and Gentleman in Black (1633) and a Self-Portrait (1634); Vermeer's The Concert (1658-1660); Govaert Flinck's Landscape with an Obelisk (1638); five drawings by the Impressionist artist Edgar Degas; and Edouard Manet's Chez Tortoni (1878-1880). The works have not yet been recovered. The $5 million dollar reward leading to the return of the art works is, as yet, unclaimed.
It was eerie to see the empty frames throughout the Museum, ghosts of the missing paintings. I knew there had been a robbery, but I had no idea that so many pieces had been stolen - unsettling to be in the midst of so much beauty while at the same time being reminded of such ugliness.