The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is amazing! Isabella Stewart Gardner created the museum “for the education and enjoyment of the public forever,” as her will reads. She collected more than 2,500 objects for her museum, which opened in 1903. The museum has remained virtually unchanged since Gardner’s death in 1924. All of the images here are from the ISGM website. If you click on the picture, it will link to the museum page that contains information about the image.

PJ and I visited the museum while we were in Boston last month. Above is a picture of the courtyard, which contains a magnificent garden designed so that different plants bloom and flower throughout the year. In many ways, this museum is like the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London but on an even grander scale. Gardner planned every aspect of the museum, from the flowers to the architecture to the paintings, sculptures, and furniture.

RembrandtGardner’s collection began with three important paintings: a Self-Portrait by Rembrandt (pictured here), Titian’s Europa, and a portrait of Philip IV by my favorite painter, Diego Velazquez. The Gardner’s purchased these three works in 1896. They soon realized that their collecting ambitions would require that they build a new space in which to exhibit their acquisitions.

In 1898, however, Jack Gardner died suddenly of a stroke, leaving Isabella to design and fulfill their plans. She purchased the land and designed and oversaw the building of what would become her home and the museum, Fenway Court.

I really like the Rembrandt, which hangs in the Dutch Room. This room has had some unfortunate history. In 1990, thieves dressed as Boston policemen stole 13 works of art from the museum, the most important of which come from this room. Among the stolen artworks were two additional Rembrandt paintings and a Vermeer (another painter I love).

Lady in YellowMy favorite genre of painting is the portrait. The ISGM has many excellent portraits. My favorite is A Lady in Yellow by Thomas Dewing (1851-1938), which appropriately enough hangs in the Yellow Room on the first floor of the museum. This is the painting to the right. The intricate detail of the woman’s dress, which you can see when you examine the painting up close, is wonderful.

There are several other paintings that I really liked, including The Omnibus by Anders Zorn, Mme. Gautreau Drinking a Toast by John Singer Sargent, El Jaleo also by Sargent, Hercules by Piero della Francesca, and Christ Carrying the Cross by the workshop of Giovanni Bellini. I wish I had time to write about each painting and explain what I like about it. One thing that clearly stands out in this list is my fondness for brown colors, a common trait found in Velazquez’s work as well.

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