Winter is the most cerebral season. Whether one is curled up with a novel and a steaming mug, watching a classic film from beneath a thick blanket, or reading a back issue of Vanity Fair beside the fire, winter is the season one finds their stimulation indoors. But just because you’re indoors, doesn’t mean you have to stay at home. Naturally, you can read and view in the cozy bar rooms or cafes of the city, but for a grander serving of food for thought, head to the museum.
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, specifically.
Now, I love Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts as much as the next gal. They have the second largest collection of paintings in the nation and a simply fantastic collection. But Isabella Stewart Gardner is quite a hero of mine, and her institution is as storied and unique as any museum in the world.
Isabella, or Mrs. Jack, as she was known about town was more than a vivacious socialite: she was a strong woman, a brilliant visionary and chic eccentric. Though she passed away just before my time, the way people talked about her in my younger years was enthralling. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the story about Mrs. Jack showing up to the 1912 Boston Symphony Orchestra wearing a headband that reads “Oh, you Red Sox,” told beneath my blue chandeliers.
A lifelong patron of the arts, Mrs. Jack designed the museum with “experience” in mind. Full of lush courtyards and high terraces, the place is a piece of art in itself. Most interestingly, Mrs. Jack herself lived in a private apartment on the top floor.
That is to say: the Gardner Museum is more than an art collection. It’s a piece of art itself, still alive from Mrs. Jack’s unique energy. On your next snowy day, bundle up and venture over to see her. Come back and, if you’re lucky, I’ll tell you about my memory of the infamous Gardner Museum Heist.
The Newbury Boston