Isabella Stewart Gardner.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
This public arts institution at Fenway Court in the Fenway-Kenmore neighbourhood of Boston, Massachusetts, holds the art collection assembled by the Boston Society couple Isabella Stewart Gardner and her husband Jack, during the period (c.1865-1900). Encompassing decorative art as well as fine art, it is acknowledged by experts to be the finest compact-sized collection in the world. It is particularly rich in Renaissance art, as well as Dutch Realism paintings of the 17th century, and includes masterpieces by Botticelli (1445-1510), Raphael (1483-1520), Titian (1487-1576), Velazquez (1599-1660), Rembrandt (1606-69), Vermeer (1632-75), Whistler (1834-1903) and Matisse (1869-1954). It remains one of the best art museums in America.
BEST ART MUSEUMS IN AMERICA
History of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Museum and Collection
The Gardners were keen travellers, particularly after the tragic death of their only son John Lowell in 1863. The earliest items of visual art in the collection were acquired during their trips to Europe, as well as to Egypt, Turkey, and the Far East. However, from 1891, their art-collecting turned serious after they inherited a large sum from Isabella's father. With the help of the Renaissance expert Bernard Berenson (1865-1959), who assisted in the purchase of over 70 works, the Gardners assembled a world class collection, including works by some of Europe's most important artists.
WORLD'S BEST ART
Located close to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Fenway Court, the palatial four-storey building which houses the collection, was designed by Isabella and her architect Willard T. Sears, as both a home and a museum, and was based on the Venetian Palazzo Barbaro. Built after the death of Jack Gardner, Isabella's husband, in 1898, it was constructed using architectural fragments from a number of European Gothic and Renaissance structures. Isabella herself lived on the top floor of the palace. She opened the museum to the public for two days each year.
ARTS OF ISLAM
FINEST EUROPEAN GALLERIES
During Isabella's lifetime, she entertained numbers of artists, performers and intellectuals at Fenway Court, drawing inspiration from the historical works of art and opulent Venetian setting. On the death of Isabella, the Museum was bequeathed to the Boston municipality as a public gallery, on condition that the layout of the collection remained unchanged. Today, the museum's active contemporary Artist-in-Residence program, concerts, and innovative education programs all combine to maintain the Isabella Gardner legacy. In addition, the museum stages regular temporary exhibitions of historic and contemporary art.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Art Collection
The compact-size collection spans six centuries of art, specializing in works by Renaissance artists and Dutch Realist painters. It also includes Baroque painting (c.1600-1700) and Neoclassical art (c.1750-1820), as well as modern art from the 19th and 20th centuries. Among works by modern artists in the collection, are two portraits of Isabella: a full-length picture (1888) by the famous Society portraitist John Singer Sargent, and another (1894), by the Swedish artist Anders Zorn.
Among the painting highlights in the permanent collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are the following:
Botticelli: Madonna of the Eucharist
(1470), tempera on panel.
These works make the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum one of the finest art museums in America.
In addition to its collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum also owns a wide range of decorative artworks, including: textiles, ceramics, rare books, illuminated manuscripts, jewellery, fine art photography, silver, stained glass art and Japanese screens, as well as doors and mantelpieces.
In 1990, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum suffered a major loss when art thieves disguised as Boston policemen made off with 13 works of art, including The Concert by Vermeer, five drawings by Degas, and Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt. Insurance assessors valued the works stolen at roughly $500 million, which makes this the biggest art theft ever. The works are still missing.
For more about famous art-buyers
and their collections, see: Art Collectors.