Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1925) was a woman whose life fully embodied the above quote from Frank Lloyd Wright – and a visit to her museum in Boston allows one to experience all of the beauty that she collected during her travels around the world.
From master paintings, sculptures and tapestries, to objects such as Napoleon’s letters, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is even more striking during the holiday season, with hundreds of vibrant red amaryllis beautifully poised in the courtyard that seem to speak to Mrs. Gardner’s exuberance for life.
Described as a “cultural maverick” and a “formidable leader…muse, mentor, patron, collector, connoisseur, and designer” by Douglass Shand-Tucci in The Art of Scandal, Mrs. Gardner became famous through her unconventional ways and as a wealthy Boston arts patron. She was also deeply appreciated for what the museum’s website describes as her “zest for life, her energetic intellectual curiosity, and her love of travel.”
Built in 1899-1901 as a replica of a 15th century Venetian palazzo that she visited during her travels in Italy, the museum opened to the public in 1903 and was to serve as her home and a work of art for the “education and enjoyment of the public.”
A gift of enjoyment it certainly is. The beauty Mrs. Gardner surrounded herself with has not only lasted a lifetime, but has continued to bloom as a pleasurable experience for the public – lifting, inspiring and celebrating all that is good and beautiful in the world, in man and in the “realms” beyond.
Of Interest: 13 museum pieces worth over $200 million, including Rembrandt’s “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” (1633) and Vermeer’s “Concert” (1664) were stolen from the museum in March 1990 by two men who posed as Boston police. The paintings and objects that were taken range in age from 130 to 3,000 years old. The Gardner Museum heist has never been solved. A book by Boston Globe reporter Stephen Kurkjian, called Master Thieves, was published in March 2015.