I am your typical tourist. I photograph beautiful landscapes, I pause to admire the detailed architecture of buildings, I gasp every time I see a delicious dessert and must eat it, I chat with locals any chance I get to get suggestions about the places I must go to. One the most unexpected beauties in Boston was visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. As the title suggests this is a museum, but it is so much more. I saw a picture of the museum’s courtyard garden in my guidebook and not having read anything about it, I told my friend Kat, we have to go. We were both blown away. It is located next to the Museum of Fine Arts but if you have to choose between the two, I would recommend going to the Gardner instead, especially if museums are really not your thing.
The History Behind Isabella Gardner Museum
Defining the museum as breathtaking is an understatement. I love nature, I love buildings and history, I love places that have a story to tell. And this is not just a museum, it does have a story to tell. The story of lady Isabella Stewart Gardner is very intriguing and daring if one considers the role of women during the 1900s. Isabella was a woman that dared to be different and used her inherited fortune from her father to create something unique amidst this building. She collected religious artifacts from all over the world and little by little her collection continued to grow. As it stands today the museum is curated with an extensive private art collection. You can define Isabella as a philanthropist, an art collector but what she really was, is a woman that had the vision to educate the public.
The Palm Courtyard
The Palm Courtyard is one of the prettiest places in town (for the best view of it, head to the third-floor stairwell). There are also the empty frames of the Rembrandt and Degas that were stolen from the Dutch Room in 1990, which are most memorable. Because Gardner didn’t allow works to leave the site (ever), the frames are a haunting reminder of what was lost. Walking into the garden courtyard took my breath away.
The Rooms at Isabella Gardner
Isabella designed this three-story museum taking her inspiration from a 15th century Venetian Palace with a stunning glass ceiling that lets the light in, a breathtaking garden lush courtyard, and carefully curated collections. Each room has a theme: Early Italian, Chinese Loggia, and every hall is dressed head to toe with paintings, tapestries. When Isabella Stewart Gardner created her museum she wanted each visitor to have an immersive experience, and it is truly that. I love this museum because it doesn’t feel like a museum, but more like a walkthrough of someone’s house. The collection in each room is so diverse. Textiles, furniture, and even the architecture of the space is on its own something to look at.
Family Activities at Isabella Gardner Museum
Did I mention the museum offers activities for everyone to participate in? The Gardner offers a unique, immersive experience by offering activities for you and your family. The kid-friendly program like Saturday Drop-in Art Activities in the Bertucci Education Studio is one of the activities offered and we loved making our little mosaic coaster. Such a fun break from all the walking and information overload when looking through a museum.
Have a lovely weekend everyone, and don’t forget to stop by ISGM!