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!
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…
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!
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…
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.