Art,  Museums

The Best of Boston — Gauguin, Monet & Sargent

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 below), the monumental mural Paul Gauguin painted on heavy burlap in Tahiti between 1897 and 1898. Across the Charles River from Boston, in Cambridge, amazing portraits by the greatest painters from the 17th- through the 20th-century await your gaze at the Harvard Art Museums.

Gauguin’s Tahitian masterpiece “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” (detail above) 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. The nine paintings shown below were on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as part of the show entitled “Fashioned by Sargent.” Additional information on this special exhibit appears later in this article.

Lady Agnew of Lochnaw, 1892 (above) & Cashmere, 1908 (detail below) by John Singer Sargent
Miss Jane Evans, 1898 by John Singer Sargent
Édouard Pailleron, 1879 by John Singer Sargent
Miss Elsie Palmer, 1889-90 by John Singer Sargent
Cashmere, circa 1908 by John Singer Sargent
Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, 1889 by John Singer Sargent
Mrs. Leopold Hirsch, 1902 by John Singer Sargent

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 (pictured below), the first of its kind in the United States.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Spanish Dancer by Sargent in Gardner Boston

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.

Gardner Museum Boston, garden inside with red flowers and statues
Gardner Museum Boston, garden palm tree with arch

“Isabella Stewart Gardner constructed her art museum to center horticulture as a ‘living art,’ placing the blooming Courtyard at the heart of her galleries and cultivating numerous species of plants to establish a living collection that still exists today,” according to the Gardner’s website.

Gardner Museum Boston, Spanish Dancer by Sargent
El Jaleo, 1882 (above) by John Singer Sargent, inside the Gardner Museum. BELOW: The Abbey Room at The Boston Public Library, Copley Square

Boston Public Library

The Public Library opened in 1854, and the Central Library’s McKim Building (an architectural masterpiece in Copley Square opposite Trinity Church) was completed in 1895. Art lovers are drawn to this Back Bay neighborhood to see murals created by the American Edwin Austin Abbey and the Frenchman Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. John Singer Sargent, born in Italy to an American family, felt close ties to Boston and spent 29 years painting mural panels that adorn the Sargent Gallery inside the Boston Public Library. While Sargent considered this commission an opportunity to create a masterwork, the final central panel along the East Wall (intended to illustrate the Sermon on the Mount) was never completed and remains blank to this day.

Triumph of Religion, a mural in the Gallery named for the painter John Singer Sargent
Sargent’s Frieze of Prophets on the East Wall of the Sargent Gallery, Boston Public Library

Cambridge Lies Across the Charles River from Boston

The Harvard Art Museums Are Now Free for All Visitors

Harvard Art Museums

Odalisque, Slave, and Eunuch, 1840 by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres

The Fogg Art Museum, opened in 1896, is the oldest component of the Harvard Art Museums (part of Harvard University) which includes two additional museums and four research centers. The three museums were integrated into a single institution in the 1980s — with an amazingly strong collection of Italian Renaissance, Pre-Raphaelite, 19th-century French and 20th-century Austrian/German Expressionist paintings — and, fortunately, united in the renovated building at 32 Quincy Street (opened in 2014) to allow greater access to the 250,000-piece collection, which also includes Chinese jades and bronzes, and works of art in all media from the ancient Mediterranean world.

Spirit of the Waters, 1914 by Daniel Chester French
Rocky Mountains, “Lander’s Peak” 1863 by Albert Bierstadt
Spring Bouquet, 1866 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir
The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train, 1877 by Claude Monet
Mother and Child, 1901 by Pablo Picasso
Woman with a Chignon, 1901 by Pablo Picasso
Self-Portrait Dedicated to Paul Gauguin, 1888 by Vincent van Gogh
Young Woman with Brown Hair, circa 1768 by Jean-Honoré Fragonard
Portrait of the Sculptor Nikolaus Friedrich, 1904 by Lovis Corinth
Lake O’Hara, 1916 by John Singer Sargent

BELOW LEFT: Artur Niezgoda and Channing Page


We wish to thank Channing Page for her assistance and all-important advice with regard to our selection of venues for art lovers in Cambridge and Boston. In addition to being a true friend and source of inspiration, Channing possesses a thirst for knowledge combined with an appreciation for all of the arts as an amelioration of the human condition, a source of healing and joy. Channing cherishes her family and friends, and is a devoted daughter.

Morning Fog, circa 1854 by Jasper Francis Cropsey
St. Francis Receiving the Stigmata, circa 1325 (center) by Taddeo Gaddi
Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, 1880 by Edgar Degas
Little Blue Under Red, 1950 (above) by Alexander Calder & Mural, March 20, 1961, 1961 (top) by Joan Miró
To the Convalescent Woman, 1912-13 by Erich Heckel at the Harvard Art Museums
Exterior of Museum of Fine Arts in Boston

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.

Colonial rooms in MFA Boston

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.

Branch Of Apple Blossoms Against A Cloudy Sky, 1867 by Martin Johnson Heade
Colonial rooms MFA Boston

The Exhibition “Fashioned by Sargent” Closed on January 15, 2024

MFA Boston Woman with daughter
Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel, 1903 by John Singer Sargent

Organized with Tate Britain, the special exhibition entitled “Fashioned by Sargent” explored the painter’s complex relationships with his clients who commissioned portraits. John Singer Sargent often chose what his sitters wore, and he altered details of attire to express the social position, gender identity and distinctive personalities of the men and women he painted. Dozens of period garments, alongside 50 paintings by Sargent, were on display at the MFA Boston through January 15, 2024.

Helen Sears, 1895 by John Singer Sargent
Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth, 1889 by John Singer Sargent

Art of the Americas Wing

Artist in his Studio, painting by Sargent, MFA Boston
An Artist in His Studio, 1904, John Singer Sargent’s portrait of Ambrogio Raffele, was the first oil by Sargent acquired by a U.S. museum.

“An Artist in His Studio” (above) is a reprise of the picture-within-the-picture theme Sargent introduced in 1885 when he created “Claude Monet Painting by the Edge of a Wood.” The subject of the artist at work appealed to Sargent, though he typically depicted his colleagues painting outdoors. This painting is exceptional, completed at a time when Sargent was showing a renewed interest in interior scenes. According to the MFA Boston, “Like other such images, Sargent crafted ‘An Artist in His Studio’ with large, vibrant brushstrokes, impasto, and brilliant light. The bravura brushwork belies the painting’s careful creation: Sargent worked tirelessly to compose and build his paintings, adding flashing strokes only at the very end of the process to give the impression of effortlessness and spontaneity.”

MFA Boston
The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, 1882 by John Singer Sargent
Sunset, Black Rock, Connecticut, 1861 by Martin Johnson Heade in MFA Boston
Sunset, Black Rock, Connecticut, 1861 by Martin Johnson Heade

Martin Johnson Heade

Magnolia Grandiflora MFA Boston
Magnolia Grandiflora, 1885 by Martin Johnson Heade
A Modern Magdalen MFA BOston
A Modern Magdalen, 1888 by William Merritt Chase
Painting of two ships in the sunset scene, MFA Boston
Gloucester Mackerel Fleet at Sunset, 1884 by Winslow Homer

Winslow Homer

Boys in a Pasture, 1874 by Winslow Homer
The Fog Warning, 1885 by Winslow Homer
Two Women on a shore, Boston
Long Branch, New Jersey, 1869 by Winslow Homer
Starting Out After Rail, 1874 (above) by Thomas Eakins
Two Seascapes, 1848-55 (above) by Fitz Henry Lane
MFA Boston, Mountain, snow, blue light
Cayambe, 1858 by Frederic Edwin Church
Seascapes of Battles during the War of 1812 (above), painted in 1813 by Thomas Birch
Sunset on Long Beach, 1867 by 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.

The Passage of the Delaware, 1819 by Thomas Sully
John Quincy Adams, MFA Boston
John Quincy Adams, 1796 by John Singleton Copley
Copley’s portraits from the 1770s include Gilbert DeBlois (above left) and Mrs. William Coffin (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.

Vase of Flowers, 1864 by John La Farge
Jewelry cabinet, MFA Boston
Jewelry cabinet by Herter Brothers from 1870-90, New York
Girl in Pink Dress looking left, MFA Boston
Eleanor, 1907 by Frank Weston Benson
Meadow Lands, MFA Boston
Meadow Lands, 1890 by Dennis Miller Bunker
The Yellow Room, 1910 by Fredrick Carl Frieseke
Ready for the Ride, 1877 by William Merritt Chase

William Merritt Chase

Reflections, 1892 by William Merritt Chase
Ellen Mary in a White Coat, MFA BOSTON
Ellen Mary in a White Coat, 1896 by Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Mary Stevenson Cassatt

Caresse Maternelle MFA Boston
Caresse Maternelle, 1902 by Mary Stevenson Cassatt
The Tea, 1880 by Mary Stevenson Cassatt
Charles River and Beacon Hill, 1892 by Childe Hassam

Childe Hassam

Dusk Snow Painting at MFA Boston
At Dusk, 1885-86 by Childe Hassam
MFA Boston
Italo-American Celebration, Washington Square, 1912 by William Glackens
Springtime in France in MFA Boston
Springtime in France, 1890 by Robert Vonnoh
Nocturne in Blue and Silver: The Lagoon, Venice, 1879-1880 by James McNeill Whistler

James McNeill Whistler

Landscape, 1890 by Philip Leslie Hale

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

Poplars at Giverny, 1887 by Claude Monet in MFA Boston
Poplars at Giverny, 1887 by Claude Monet
Valley of the Creuse (Sunlight Effect), 1889 by Claude Monet
Cathedral Monet MFA Boston
Rouen Cathedral, 1894 by Claude Monet
Valley of the Petite Creuse, 1889 by Claude Monet
Grainstack by Claude Monet in MFA Boston
Grainstack (Sunset), 1891 by Claude Monet
Claude Monet, winter painting MFA Boston
Entrance to the Village of Vétheuil in Winter, 1879 by Claude Monet
Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny, MFA BOSTON
Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny, 1885 by Claude Monet
Lighthouse Walk at Biarritz, 1906 by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida
Bridge in the Mountains, 1898 by Jean-Baptiste Armand Guillaumin
Circus by James Tissot in Boston
Women of Paris: The Circus Lover, 1885 by James Tissot
Pears by Cezanne in Boston
Pears on a White Plate, 1879-80 by Paul Cézanne

Paul Cézanne & His Influence on Post-Impressionism

Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair, 1877 by Paul Cézanne
Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin, 1888 by Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh

Van Gogh woman on the armchair Boston
Portrait of Madame Roulin, 1889 by Vincent van Gogh
Pointalism, Boston
Louis Bonnier, 1903 by Theodore van Rysselberghe

European Art

Three wing piece, religious, Boston
The Crucifixion; The Redeemer with Angels; Saint Nicholas and Saint Gregory, 1311-18 by Duccio di Buoninsegna
Religious Painting by Bernardo Daddi Boston
The Nativity and the Annunciation to the Shepherds, 1336 by Bernardo Daddi
Phineas and the Sons of Boreas, 1695 by Sebastiano Ricci
Paintings in MFA Boston
Devout Men Taking the Body of Saint Stephen, 1776 (above center) by Benjamin West
Apostle Matthew, 1620 (left) by Anthony van Dyck and The Crucifixion, 1610 by Peter Paul Rubens
Portrait of a Young Married Couple, 1621-22 by Jacob Jordaens
van Dyck Icarus Boston
Self-Portrait as Icarus with Daedalus, 1618 by Anthony van Dyck
Painting Amsterdam by Heyden, Boston
View of the Westerkerk, Amsterdam, 1667-70 by Jan van der Heyden
Portrait of a Woman with Arm Akimbo, 1620 by Frans Hals
Detail from Still Life with Fruit, Wanli Porcelain, and Squirrel, 1616 by Frans Snyders
A 1717 Model of the ship Valkenisse (above & below) owned by the Dutch East India Company
Portrait of a Woman Wearing a Gold Chain, 1634 by Rembrandt van Rijn
Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh, 1632 by Rembrandt van Rijn
A 17th-century Dolls’ House from the Netherlands
View of Rotterdam, 1700 by Cornelis Boumeester
Luis de Góngora y Argote, 1622 by Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez
The Nativity (above left) by Tintoretto & works by Titian, Murillo, El Greco & Zurburán (left to right)
Mrs. Edmund Morton Pleydell, 1765 by Thomas Gainsborough
Eruption of Vesuvius with Destruction of a Roman City, 1824 by Sebastian Pether
Wieńczysława Barczewska, Madame de Jurjewicz, 1860 by Franz Xaver Winterhalter
Belcolore, 1863 (left) & Bocca Baciata, 1859 (right) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Painter´s Honeymoon, 1864 by Frederic Leighton
Detail from Pigment Seller in North Africa, 1891 by Jean-Léon Gérôme
Odysseus and Polyphemus, 1896 by Arnold Böcklin
Flower Vase designed by Emile Reiber, France 1863-76
Moorish Bath, 1870 by Jean-Léon Gérôme

Antiquities, Asian & Islamic Art

King Menkaura, the goddess Hathor and the deified Hare nome, 2490-2472 BC Egypt
Striding Lion, 604–561 BC, Assyria
Sho Kanon, 1269 from the Kamakura period, Japan
Miroku, 1189 from the Kamakura period, Japan
Jin Dynasty, 1200
Yuan Dynasty, late 13th-14th centuries, China
Ming Dynasty, China
Steven Pico, Senior Art Critic at ArtLoversTravel
Design on a Canoe Paddle, Papua New Guinea, late 19th century
Tile Lunette, 1570 from Iznik, Turkey

Modern Art at the MFA Boston

Summer Night’s Dream (The Voice), 1893 by Edvard Munch
Dos Mujeres, 1928 by Frida Kahlo. Picture by Sharon Mollerus
Double Portrait, 1946 by Max Beckmann
Detail from Number 10, 1949 by Jackson Pollock
Deer’s Skull with Pedernal, 1936 by Georgia O’Keeffe. Photo by Almond Butterscotch
A Sunflower from Maggie, 1937 by Georgia O’Keeffe
John, 1st Baron Byron, 2013 by Kehinde Wiley. Photo by Peter E
Cross Pollination, 2019 (above) by Judith Schaechter. Peonies Blown in the Wind, 1886 (below left) & Butterflies and Foliage, 1889 (right) by John La Farge

Enjoying the City of Boston

Beacon Hill
Commonwealth Avenue
Public Garden
Dating from 1634, the Boston Common is the oldest city park in the USA

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