A world-renowned private collection of art and cultural treasures awaits at this small yet lavish museum.
Step inside this Venetian-styled mansion and share in the vision of one of America’s most passionate art collectors. The Isabella Gardner Museum houses an impressive collection of paintings, furniture, textiles and photographs. Allow at least two hours to take the journey across the ages of art, from ancient Rome to contemporary times. Enjoy masterpieces by famous artists, including a portrait of Gardner by John Singer Sargent. Other artists exhibited include Matisse, Botticelli, Degas, Rembrandt and Titian.
The museum is a tribute to Isabella Stewart Gardner, one of the best-known women in Boston society at the turn of the 20th century. A philanthropist, art collector and patron of the arts, Gardner established the museum in 1903. The building is as much a part of the attraction as the art inside. Its design was inspired by the opulent 15th-century palaces of Venice. In 2012, a modern wing was completed to house the museum’s ever-expanding collection, as well as classrooms for performance and educational programs.
Gardner spent years arranging her collection into themed rooms such as the Yellow Room, the Spanish Cloister and the Little Salon. Most rooms look out upon the central courtyard, offering tranquil views of trees and seasonal flowering plants. In 1990, the museum fell victim to one of the greatest art heists in history. Look for the empty picture frames in some of the rooms, left hanging in the hope that one day the masterpieces will be returned.
Pull up a chair at Café G and sample dishes from historical recipes dreamt up by Gardner. The museum’s gift store is well stocked with souvenirs and original crafts.
Check out the museum concert program, which features performances by local and visiting artists and ensembles. The museum also runs symposiums and horticultural tours and classes.
The Isabella Gardner Museum is in Boston’s Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood. The museum is open Wednesday through Monday, and closed for some holidays. Admission is a small fee, and free for anyone named Isabella.