On Thursday, PJ and I each flew to Boston for the weekend. He was there for the American Literature Association Conference, and I decided to tag along for a little rest and relaxation. I had initially thought that I would set up some visits with alumni while there, but I quickly decided that I deserve a little time off every now and then. I’d glad I did; it was a fun, restful weekend.

The highlight of the trip was visiting the Museum of Fine Arts again. In particular, I took a look at the museum’s new Art of the Americas wing, which is nothing less than fabulous. My memory of the previous space was that it was rather dull. The new wing is beautifully arranged, and I especially enjoyed the lighting. The works on display are gorgeously lit in this new, four-story wing. There’s also plenty of room for moving around and seeing the works from multiple positions. It’s a great addition to the museum.

Much of the collection is organized around the museum’s strengths, two of which immediately stand out: John Singleton Copley and John Singer Sargent. One of my favorite paintings during this visit was Copley’s “Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Winslow (Jemima Debuke)”:

This painting illustrates a trend in the way the museum now labels its paintings: whenever the painting depicts a married woman, her maiden name is also given in the title along with her married name. I really like this acknowledgment that women are not only wives, subsumed into their husbands’ identities.

This painting is also interesting for the fact that Mrs. Winslow apparently had her dress repainted at a later date. As the museum explains,

The Winslows were supporters of the British, and in 1774, they fled to Halifax and then to England. Isaac died on the voyage, but Jemima took this portrait with her to London. There, she hired another artist …to repaint her dress in a more up to date style-a plain, green gown visible in the old photograph reproduced on th[e] label.

Conservators restored the painting to its original state by slowly scraping the green paint off. If you click on the picture, you can learn more about it from the MFA website.

I also admired Copley’s painting of Winslow Warren. I especially like how stylish and dapper Warren is in this painting. Winslow was the second son of James Warren and Mercy Otis Warren, who was a revolutionary era writer.

I haven’t been able to find out much about Winslow Warren other than that he died before his both of his parents in 1791. He was an Adjutant to General Arthur St. Clair, who, according to Wikipedia led a military expedition against an Indian settlement “near the headwaters of the Wabash River, but on November 4 they were routed in battle by a tribal confederation led by Miami Chief Little Turtle and Shawnee chief Blue Jacket. More than 600 soldiers and scores of women and children were killed in the battle, which has since borne the name ‘St. Clair’s Defeat,’ also known as the ‘Battle of the Wabash,’ the ‘Columbia Massacre,’ or the ‘Battle of a Thousand Slain.’ It remains the greatest defeat of an US army by Native Americans in history, with some 623 American soldiers killed in action, contrasted with about 50 Native American dead.” (source) Warren was one of the soldiers killed in this defeat.

This painting suggests that he was also very fashionable, handsome, and dapper. I find the look on his face fascinating and wish I could know more about him.

The MFA also has a strong collection of John Singer Sargent’s work. In fact, seeing his work here makes me want to read more about him, so I’ve already ordered a biography to read.

One of the many works that stood out to me is this painting, “Mrs. Charles E. Inches (Louise Pomeroy).” I think it’s one of the most beautiful works in the entire museum. The brush strokes and color palette are both riveting, and I find the look on her face enigmatic. Is she happy or sad? Is she the mistress of everything around her or a prisoner of her marriage and position?

Unfortunately, I haven’t found anything about her online, and the museum doesn’t provide additional information about her or the painting. Maybe I’ll keep looking.

There were several other Sargents that I enjoyed, too many to list them all here. A few that stood out were “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit,” “Rosina, Capri” (I couldn’t find anything on the MFA website about this painting), and “A Capriote.”

The Art of the Americas has lots of other interesting works, of course. Rather than comment on everything I liked, I thought that I would list them here and then link to the museum’s site on each:

And this list doesn’t include works that I liked but can’t find more information in the museum site.

I really enjoyed my visit, which included lunch at the museum restaurant, and I look forward to visiting again the next time I’m in Boston — PJ hasn’t seen it yet.

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