When travelers tell us they plan to spend a week in New York, our initial response is to suggest that a 10-day visit to Boston and New York City would be ideal. For art lovers, Boston is a relaxed place to contemplate “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” (shown above), the monumental mural Paul Gauguin painted on heavy burlap in Tahiti between 1897 and 1898.
Gauguin’s masterpiece is displayed among other iconic works of art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which also owns 35 oil paintings by Claude Monet and the world’s most comprehensive collection of John Singer Sargent’s oeuvre. Founded in 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts moved in 1909 to its present location near the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — a fine example of Venetian Gothic Revival architecture with an enchanting glass-covered garden courtyard, the first of its kind in the United States.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
In the 1890s, Isabella and John Gardner realized that their home on Beacon Street in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood was too small to house their growing collection of art, which included Fra Angelico’s “Assumption and Dormition of the Virgin” (below left), paintings by Botticelli, Titian, Velázquez and Sargent, and a drawing by Michelangelo. Following John’s death in 1898, Isabella purchased land in the marshy Fenway area to realize the couple’s shared dream of building a museum to house their art treasures. The museum (below right) was completed in 1901 in the style of a 15th-century Venetian palace and opened to the public two years later. 13 artworks (including Vermeer’s “The Concert” and Rembrandt’s only known seascape, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee”) were stolen from the Gardner Museum in 1990. A $10 million reward remains in place for information leading to the recovery of the art, as this crime remains unsolved.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Founded in the capital of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts (abbreviated as the “MFA Boston”) is the 20th-largest art museum in the world (measured by public gallery area). More than 8,000 paintings are on display in the MFA Boston, which possesses one of the most encyclopedic collections in the United States consisting of 450,000 works of art.
The “Portrait of Roswell Gleason” 1848 (above) by Edward Dalton Marchant is displayed in the museum’s rooms from the Roswell Gleason House — built circa 1840 in Dorchester, Massachusetts. The formal Dining Room (in the background) and a sitting room were purchased by the MFA Boston in 1976 from a descendant of Gleason, a prosperous pewter manufacturer. The acquisition of these two rooms represents a most auspicious use of the museum’s Period Room Restoration Fund — the Roswell Gleason House burned in 1982.
Art of the Americas Wing
John Singer Sargent
Martin Johnson Heade
Colonial America & the War for Independence
History buffs will find the finest collection of Colonial-era furniture and paintings at the MFA Boston. One of the turning points during the American Revolutionary War (1775 — 1783) came on the morning of December 26, 1776 after General George Washington led his troops across the frozen Delaware River at night to surprise the enemy’s forces at Trenton, as depicted by Thomas Sully in 1819 in “The Passage of the Delaware” (below). You will notice that Sully calls attention to people of color who participated in the American Revolution by including William Lee, an enslaved man, on horseback at right.
John Singleton Copley
More than 60 paintings by Copley (1738 — 1815) are normally on view at the MFA Boston, including the portrait of “Mrs. Richard Skinner” (below) from 1772.
William Merritt Chase
Mary Stevenson Cassatt
James McNeill Whistler
Philip Leslie Hale was among the first American artists to travel to Giverny, France, to work alongside Claude Monet. Beginning in 1888, Hale spent several summers in Giverny. He advised Monet to visit the USA to “try his hand” at painting the rapids at Niagara Falls.
BELOW: Valley of the Creuse (Gray Day), 1889 by Claude Monet
A Superb Collection of Impressionism at the MFA Boston
Vincent van Gogh
The Special Exhibition on J.M.W. Turner Closes on July 10, 2022
“If I were reduced to rest Turner’s immortality upon any single work, I should choose this.” John Ruskin, English art critic
Ruskin was referring to the 1840 painting (above) by Joseph Mallord William Turner entitled “The Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On)” the centerpiece of “Turner’s Modern World” — a special exhibition presented at the MFA Boston from March 27 through July 10, 2022.
J.M.W. Turner drew inspiration for “The Slave Ship” from two 18th-century sources: a poem describing a slave ship caught in a typhoon, and the true story of the “Zong” — a British ship whose captain had thrown overboard sick and dying enslaved people so that he could collect insurance money only available for those “lost at sea.” This landmark exhibit (co-organized with Tate Britain which boasts the largest collection of Turners) brings together more than 100 drawings, paintings and watercolors by J.M.W. Turner (1775 — 1851), considered one of Great Britain’s greatest artists.
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