Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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Place Category: MuseumPlace Tags: Greater Boston Places and Places in MA

  • Description

    The museum is named after its founder Isabella Stewart Gardner, an art collector, philanthropist, and patron of the arts. The museum, opened in 1903, housed in a building designed like a Venetian Renaissance palace with an interior garden courtyard covered by a glass roof. The first art pieces displayed in the museum were from Gardner’s private collection.
    After realizing that their house is not a proper place to display their growing art collection, Isabella Stewart Gardner and her husband decided to build a museum. When her husband passed away, Gardner purchased the land and helped to design the structure of the museum. She moved into the museum and personally arranged the works of art in the galleries. Her vision was to create a place of joy and education for the public forever. The site of her former home, at 152 Beacon Street, is a stop on the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail.
    The museum became world famous as the victim to the biggest unsolved art theft in world history, when in 1990 two men dressed as police stole 13 works of art by masters such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, and Degas. Today their empty frames are hanging in the museum, as symbols of hope.
    Inspired by the unfortunate happening, French Conceptual artist Sophie Calle has created her famous series “Last Seen” – replacing the stolen artworks with texts describing them. The series has been exhibited around the world.
    Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum consists more than 7,500 artworks, including painting, sculptures, ceramics, textile, furniture, rare books, and archival objects from ancient Egypt, ancient Rome, Medieval and Renaissance Europe, Asia, 19th-century America, and the Islamic world. One of its iconic cultural offerings was a performance by Ruth St. Denis and singing by Australian opera star Nellie Melba.
    Among its diverse collection of fine art, there are works by Vermeer, Botticelli, and Rembrandt, as well as a contemporary art collection and works by Bunker, Whistler, and Sargent. The museum is also an Artist-in-Residence program, where artists live and create. Visitors are welcome to stroll the courtyard and the greenhouse, enjoy the display of flowers and plants, and participate in special events, such as lectures, concerts, performances, and open studios.

    Collective Vision: The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

    Isabella Stewart Gardner traveled the globe for over three decades, assembling one of the world's most remarkable art collections. Produced for Public Television by Great Museums TV. For more information, visit
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