My time so far in Boston has been amazing. After an all-nighter, 2 flights, and a 3 hour layover in Philadelphia I finally made it here! Jen met me at the airport (she found the airport bar), and we made our way to her apartment via public transportation. The public transport system here is really nice, and so far I like it much more than the system in St. Louis.
Last night we took it easy. We found a mall and wandered for a bit. Then, Jen went to a friend’s recital, and I set up camp in an adorable cafe down the street. I sipped on some hot oolong tea, read some of The Monuments Men (AMAZING book. Must read, and so far a lot more info than the movie, duh), and people watched. All the people look like they came from STL. At night in a city everything looks the same, but it felt different.
Today we went to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. This place is so unreal and fantastic and it makes me so incredibly happy to have been there and to know that it exists. Isabella Gardner collected thousands of pieces of famous (and not so famous) artwork. Paintings, photographs, letters, furniture, dishes, tapestries, clothes, books, and so many things I know I’m forgetting. When her son died she and her husband did a lot of traveling around Europe. Her first acquisition was a beautiful Vermeer titled “The Concert.” Unfortunately, in 1990 two people dressed as police officers broke into the museum, and stole 13 pieces of art (the Vermeer included). They have yet to be found.
They began collecting all this art, and began building a house to show it off. When her husband died, she began work on a museum, Fenway Court, in 1903. The museum currently has around 3,000 pieces of art. It isn’t set up like a typical museum at all. I felt as though I was walking through someone’s house, and they had everything they owned on display for everyone to see and admire. When building, she even planned to use as much natural light as possible.
Thinking back, and knowing I didn’t see everything, I think I have decided on my three favorites so far. They are:
1. John Singer Sargent’s painting of a dancing woman (Sargent worked with Gardner often. She has many of his paintings, including a few portraits of her)
2. Titian’s “Europa” painted in 1560-62. While during her time women weren’t often well educated, there are many hints to her education of art and art history. The Titian piece is on the second floor of three, and prominently displayed in a room with windows facing North to get lots of available even natural light. At the time, if there was no sunlight they relied on candles, and possibly some electricity. The piece is high up on the wall, and below it she has displayed a large piece of fabric from her favorite ball gown. This is said to be a way of her showing her pride in herself for having this piece.
3. A first “portable” edition of Dante’s “Inferno.” Hidden behind glass in a case on the third floor, and covered by thick fabric to keep the light out, you wouldn’t even know there were so many beautiful things in the cases if you were just passing by. Most of the books aren’t labeled, but this one was.
The museum does a lot of work with local artists now. They also started a conservation department in an effort to conserve and preserve the works she collected. The head of this department was George L. Stout, who was one of the Monuments Men. It is actually a huge coincidence I’m reading The Monuments Men right now. I didn’t know he worked there until today!
After this museum, Jen had to skip off to a dress rehearsal for scenes tonight, which I am so excited to see! I haven’t seen her perform since our last high school musical!
While she did that I did a brief visit to the MFA, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. I saw the photographs, gift shop, and a little bit of the contemporary section. I’m going to wander the museum in its entirety tomorrow while Jen has classes and stuff. I bought a book in their gift shop titled “Picture Perfect, Life in the Age of the Photo Op.” It seems really interesting, and along the lines of my rough thesis idea. We’ll see!