Boston has some incredible landmarks, historical sites and museums. When asking for local’s top recommendations of places to visit, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was usually among the top 10. Interestingly enough, I’ve found close friends have recommended this quirky collection over the massive collection of the Museum of Fine Arts (which I’ve also heard great things about).
The museum was developed by Isabella Stewart Gardner, who according to the museum’s history, became a private collector of art and antiques after receiving a large inheritance from her family at an early age. She and her husband were a part of the socialite society of Boston, and Gardner built the museum in the Fenway area before it became a relative hot spot in the city. The building’s rooms are all laid out exactly to Mrs. Gardner’s specifications and when she passed away, she stipulated that the collections must be maintained as they were originally presented. This presents a very interesting quality to each room, as they seem to be very eclectic groupings of paintings and other antiques.
Some of the most impressive areas of the museum included the indoor courtyard, which you can see from every level of the building and was designed after buildings in Italy, and the Titian room, which is a collection of religious-themed paintings including an incredibly breathtaking piece by Titian.
Personally, I love visiting art museums, so walking around and viewing all of the pieces was moving and inspiring. This is definitely not an activity I would recommend for 1) children (unless they attend a special education event), 2) anyone clumsy or 3) people who don’t like art. Each room of the building contains tight corridors and pieces that might sit on the floor that cannot be touched. This does, however, seem like a great activity for a romantic date, group or individual visit, or a bad weather day. If you want a preview of what the museum has to offer, check out their comprehensive website where you’ll find pictures of some of the larger pieces in the rooms.
Another fascinating piece of the museum’s history is the art heist of 1990. Some of the biggest pieces of the museum’s collection were stolen in one of the largest art thefts in history – and the museum leaves the frames where these pieces were once housed empty, in the hopes that they are some day returned.
I would definitely recommend visiting the ISGM, but would recommend scheduling a return trip after 2012 when the expansion project is completed. A few of the rooms were under renovation when I personally visited but I’m excited to see these on my next trip!