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Unlike any other. by ARTalk

[by Nathan Kipniss '14] "Welcome to the Gardner"

One of the things I love about the Boston area is that being a college student gets you all sorts of discounts at cultural institutions. By attending MIT, you can even get into events for free.

Last weekend, I took advantage of a new opportunity that allows MIT students to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum for free (you can also do the same at the nearby Museum of Fine Arts). On the outside it seems like it’s a normal, historic home in Boston. Only the signs really give it away as being a museum.

The inside is magnificent, and the history is quite interesting. All of the objects and paintings in the museum are exactly as Ms. Gardner left them as stipulated in her will. This rule is followed to the extent that the empty frames of artwork that was stolen in a heist during the 1990s are still hanging. What I love the most is that stepping into the Gardner museum is like stepping back in time because nothing has changed.

Also I really like that the Gardner is personal. It felt as if I was walking through someone’s home rather than walking inside of a museum. The rooms are decorated for experiencing and living, not simply for viewing under bright florescent lighting and against white walls. Furniture and adornments, along with juxtaposing sketches and painting, also give the rooms character.

The first painting I approached was “El Jaleo,” by John Singer Sargent. Its impressive size and energy is captivating and irresistible. I had to resist taking photos though, because it is strictly against the rules of the museum. (Hence some of these photos are from websites, and not me ☺ )

“El Jaleo” by John Singer Sargent. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

What this photo lacks is how the painting is displayed on the first floor of The Gardner. It’s almost framed off from the rest of the room in an alcove that is ornately carved in stone. Its isolation makes it the focal point of the museum’s entrance.

Next is the impossible-to-avoid the courtyard. It’s fabulous, and glass enclosed; meaning flowers can bloom all year long.

Photo Credit:

Not only is the courtyard art in that all of the plants are as meticulously placed, but also because of the rare and ancient objects that fill it. In the center is a large Roman tile mosaic from around 115 AD of Medusa. I wish I could have actually stepped into the courtyard, but it is roped off from the public. Also, like the rest of the museum, absolutely no photography is allowed either. But, I can understand why photography is prohibited. If I had a mosaic from 115 AD I would want it preserved as much as possible!

There is so much I could write about (I didn’t even mention two other floors in the museum!) but I would rather make this post short and cut out some of the details. I strongly believe that art is an experience, and we should all go and experience it ourselves. Instead of gleaning details from my writing, go and check out Isabella Stewart Gardner’s final vision of her collection.

3 responses to “Unlike any other.”

  1. Anonymous says:

    So awesome!! I didn’t know MIT student could get in free. Good to know.