More about Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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Eccentric Isabella Stewart Gardner opens mind-blowingly awesome museum!

Originally called Fenway Court. I, however, would like to start the rumor that Fenway definitely comes from Mrs. Gardner’s love for the Red Sox and not the neighborhood it’s in. I mean she showed up at the symphony wearing a headband that said, “Oh, you Red Sox” and practically caused a riot! Please disregard the fact that the Museum opened in 1903 and the ballpark in 1912. 

Mrs. Gardner was able to start collecting after she received a large inheritance from her father. Luckily she travelled in all the coolest circles making friends with the likes of John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, and Anders Zorn. Her first big purchase however, was a Vermeer. Talk about starting with a bang!

After the death of her brother, she and her husband Jack decided to realize their museum dreams. Though she hired an architect, Isabella did most of the design work and left the pesky structural details to other people.

Isabella spent a year organizing and decorating the museum precisely to her liking because if you want things done right you have to do them yourself. You might notice the galleries don’t have a certain theme or are full of one particular artist or style, which is supposed to help make new and different connections with art. Something we love at Sartle!

On opening night Isabella served champagne and donuts. A gastronomical decision we can get behind.

For a lady who liked to cause such a ruckus her will is not very flexible. It states that the collection may not be significantly altered and the executors have translated that into “Don’t change a single thing.”

In 1990, the biggest art theft in the history of ever happened. Two men posing as police officers entered the Museum and handcuffed the only two security guards on duty to pipes in the basement. They weren’t found until the next morning. The thieves made off with 13 works including: Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633), A Lady and Gentleman in Black (1633) and a Self Portrait (1634); Vermeer’s The Concert (1658–1660); five drawings by Edgar Degas; a finial from the top of a pole support for a Napoleonic silk flag; and Edouard Manet’s Chez Tortoni (1878–1880). The value of the works are approximated at $500 million. There is a $5 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the art and anyone with information should contact the Director of Security at the Museum at or the FBI.

Because Isabella’s will says to not change anything, after the theft the Museum decided to leave the empty frames hanging in situ and hopefully shame the thieves into giving the works back!

In 2012, an extension that required the approval of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts (they had to get around that pesky will) and built by Renzo Piano opened. Mr. Piano is quickly becoming the go to museum guy having done work for the Art Institute of Chicago, Harvard Art Museums, Centre Georges Pompidou, The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures and LACMA.

One very important last note: If your name is Isabella you can get in for FREE.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is an art museum in Boston, Massachusetts, which houses significant examples of European, Asian, and American art. Its collection includes paintings, sculpture, tapestries, and decorative arts. It was founded by Isabella Stewart Gardner, whose will called for her art collection to be permanently exhibited "for the education and enjoyment of the public forever."

The museum opened in 1903. An auxiliary wing designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, adjacent to the original structure near the Back Bay Fens, was completed in 2012.

In 1990, thirteen of the museum's works were stolen; the crime remains unsolved, and the works, valued at an estimated $500 million, have not been recovered.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum