The Arts
Art Highlights of Boston and Beyond
August 30, 2018
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Art Highlights of Boston and Beyond

Warning! I am not an art historian, I have never formally studied art. Like most people, I just know what I like and what inspires my work as a graphic designer and creative… this is what inspired me – the art highlights of Boston and beyond as James and I road tripped around New England.

Disclosure: I may earn compensation from the purchase of any product or service linked on this website, at no extra cost to you. I only link to products I use and love, therefore feel comfortable recommending.

Boston Museum of Fine Arts

The Boston MFA first opened to the public in 1876. At the time, the Museum was located in Copely Square and housed roughly 5,600 artworks. Due to an expanding collection and growing interest, the MFA relocated its current position on Huntington Avenue. The collection has swelled to 500,00 pieces and the building has been expanded to accommodate.

Just like the Chicago Institute of Art and New York’s Metropolitan Museum, I could live here! There is a lifetime of art to study within the walls of the Boston MFA and I’d be happy to do it. Here are a selection of my favourites from Van Gogh, Renoir and Monet to Stuart Davis and Loïs Mailou Jones. If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably already have seen every child’s (and a few adults) dream dollhouse, but here it is again!

17th century Dutch Dolls' House
17th century Dutch Dolls' House
17th century Dutch Dolls' House
Furnishings of porcelain, silver, glass, mother of pearl and wood
Oak Hill front door
Oak Hill front door
Interior of Oak Hill Parlor 1801
Interior of Oak Hill Parlor 1801
Boston Harbor by Rufus Porter about 1824
Boston Harbor by Rufus Porter, about 1824
Ravine by Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
Ravine by Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

NOTE: If you’re travelling to Boston and want to study up on the best pieces before you leave, I recommend tuning into The Lonely Palette podcast by Tamar Avishai, art historian and adjunct lecturer at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Would you believe I stumbled upon The Lonely Palette just weeks after visiting Boston – doh! Apparently, I should have been looking for Donatello’s “Madonna of the Clouds” at the Boston MFA. Don’t miss it like I did…

Dance at Bougival by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1883
Dance at Bougival by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1883
Paul Gauguin at the Boston MFA
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? by Paul Gauguin, 1897-98
Antique musical instruments
The MFA has a fascinating collection of antique musical instruments
La Japonaise by Monet 1876
La Japonaise by Monet 1876
Illustrated List of Fountains
This poster of fountains made me want to go water-feature hunting. Illustrated List of Fountains Manufactured by M. D. Jones & Co, about 1870 - 1875
Antibes, The Pink Cloud - Paul Signac
Antibes, The Pink Cloud by Paul Signac, 1916
John Singer Sargent murals on the ceiling of the MFA, painted in 1921
John Singer Sargent murals on the ceiling of the MFA, painted in 1921
George Gershwin - I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise by Arthur Garfield Dove, 1927
George Gershwin - I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise by Arthur Garfield Dove, 1927
Fishhook from Hawaii 2 by Georgia O'Keeffe, 1939
Fishhook from Hawaii 2 by Georgia O'Keeffe, 1939
Skyscraper Desk and Bookcase designed by Paul Theodore Frankl, about 1928
Skyscraper Desk and Bookcase designed by Paul Theodore Frankl, about 1928
Resonator Guitar (Tricone Model), 1934
Resonator Guitar (Tricone Model), 1934
Dos Mujeres by Frida Kahlo, 1928
Dos Mujeres by Frida Kahlo, 1928
Lime Green Icicle Tower by Dale Chihuly, 2011
Lime Green Icicle Tower by Dale Chihuly, 2011
Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors - 7th Avenue Style by Stuart Davis, 1940
Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors - 7th Avenue Style by Stuart Davis, 1940
Number 10 by Jackson Pollock, 1949
La Baker by Loïs Mailou Jones, 1977
La Baker by Loïs Mailou Jones, 1977

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Isabella Stewart, the Museum’s founder and namesake, was born in New York City in 1840, the daughter of a wealthy Irish linen importer and investor. While attending finishing school in France she was introduced to future husband John Lowell Gardner of Boston. After the death of their infant son, Mr Gardner took Isabella on an anti-depressant motivated trip around Europe and Russia. Catching the travel bug, they continued to journey over the years to destinations throughout the Middle East and Asia. Mrs Gardner first started collecting rare books and manuscripts before expanding her collecting to art with the assistance of Bernard Berenson.

Following the sudden passing of Mr Gardner in 1898, Isabella purchased land that they had been coveting and employed architect Willard T. Sears to draw up plans for a museum. When the Museum was complete in 1901, Isabella resided on the fourth-floor, personally seeing to the arrangement of art in the lower levels. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was finally opened on the first day of 1903 to the strains of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The Museum was one of the first private art collections in America open to be viewed by the public.

I’m not sure if I was more impressed by the collection or the building! The courtyard alone is worthy of a visit. The galleries were busy and dark (darker than most Museums, that is) so I didn’t take many photos. You’ll just have to visit this amazing place for yourself!

The beautiful courtyard of the Gardner Museum
The courtyard of the Isabella Stewart Garnder Museum
Gardner Museum, Boston
The Spanish Cloister framing John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo, 1882
The Spanish Cloister framing John Singer Sargent's El Jaleo, 1882
The Raphael Room
The Raphael Room at the Gardner Museum
Flemish tapestry in the Bardini Blue painted second floor stairhall
Flemish tapestry in the Bardini Blue painted second floor stairhall
Gothic architectural details
Gothic architectural details
Veronese Room, Gardner Museum
Veronese Room with collection of lace samples
sabella Stewart Garner's portrait
Isabella Stewart Garner's portrait by John Singer Sargent, 1888, in the Gothic Room

Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was an American illustrator best known for his The Saturday Evening Post covers.  Educated at The Arts Students League of New York, the young achiever received his first freelance assignment at age 17 for Condé Nast, then spent much of his career providing illustrations for a number of magazines. He worked with The Saturday Evening Post for 47 years producing 322 covers for the magazine. He also illustrated the Boy Scout Calendar from 1926-1976 and during World War II his illustrations were used in posters by the Office of War Information. Rockwell’s signature was illustrating everyday life with great sensitivity and humour. He was able to create fine art realism on tight magazine deadlines – an achievement in itself – but he also conceptualized much of the work himself. The Norman Rockwell Museum is a great place to see some of his amazing body of work and walk through his art studio which was relocated to the Museum site from the nearby town of Stockbridge.

I could have taken dozens of photos of Norman Rockwell’s work, but I just took three. The first was his famous depiction of the main street of Stockbridge at Christmas. We stayed in the Red Lion Hotel which is the big white building to the far right of the painting (the historic inn is now painted red as the name would suggest). See our failed attempt to capture a print of the painting in the street. The traffic, trees, afternoon light and panoramic perspective of the painting did not work in our favour. We planned to make a slightly different attempt at golden hour the next morning and of course, it was pouring rain!

The other two are a small sample of Rockwell’s many Evening Post covers. There were so many funny, poignant and beautiful illustrations to choose from. I selected the Chicago cover because it reflects my own inspiration from the Chicago cityscape – in fact, it features the Marshall Fields clock I included in my City Signatures post here. The other is one I felt is a relevant today as it was when it was published in 1961…

The Saturday Evening Post cover, November 3, 1945
The Saturday Evening Post cover, November 3, 1945
Norman Rockwell cover of the Saturday Evening Post
April 1, 1961 cover
Main Street of Stockbridge
Main Street of Stockbridge illustrated by Norman Rockwell
Stockbridge Main Street
Our failed attempt to capture Stockbridge Main Street in the main street of Stockbridge

Peter Max at The Museum at Bethel Woods

On the original Woodstock music festival site at Bethel Woods, is now a Museum and arts complex dedicated to education. While we were visiting, there was an exhibition of Peter Max’s work. Graphic artist, Peter Max, was born in Germany in 1937. His family travelled frequently throughout his childhood exposing him to places such as Tibet, Africa and much of Europe. The Jewish family escaped Nazi Germany, living in China for a decade before they settled to the U.S.. Like the aforementioned Rockwell, Peter Max was educated at The Arts Students League of New York. Max became an artist in the 1960’s combining photos and vivacious colours to create collages in his unique style. He was deeply inspired by astronomy and his cosmic pop art was perfectly timed for the decade’s psychedelic counterculture.

You don’t have to know anything about Peter Max or his work to place this group of works it in a historical timeline. It screams 60’s LSD trip – in a good way. I’ve never really been into the psychedelic thing (clearly I’m much too sober) but I could really get a grip of Peter Max’s work. It wasn’t so far that my imagination couldn’t stretch to meet it.

Cosmic Profile with Bird - Peter Max
Cosmic Profile with Bird
Astral Thinker - Peter Max
Astral Thinker
The One Within Without - Peter Max
The One Within Without
Sunrise Sail - Peter Max
Sunrise Sail
Love - Peter Max
Love
Entering Purple - Peter Max
Entering Purple

Plan a trip to Boston and beyond

Find flights to Boston with Skyscanner.

Search for accommodation using Tripadvisor.

Rent a car for your New England road trip with National Car Rental.

For more art discovered on my North American travels, see Art Highlights of – Indianapolis, New York City and Chicago.

Peace, love & inspiring travel,

Madam ZoZo

Art Highlights of Boston and Beyond

About author

Madam ZoZo

Hi! I'm Madam ZoZo, aka Zoë, an Australian designer, creative consultant, blogger and digital nomad. I'm passionate about travel, design, dance and new experiences that fuel my creativity. I strive to travel in a style that is gentle on the earth and that contributes to the communities I visits, even if it is merely to take away a greater understanding of a different culture. Duende by Madam ZoZo, is where I share the stories of my travels and the duende (soul/inspiration) I find along the way.

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