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Harvard Art Museums – Virtual Tour

Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University

Harvard Art Museums – Virtual Tour

The Harvard Art Museums are part of Harvard University and combine three museums:

  • The Fogg Museum – established in 1895
  • The Busch-Reisinger Museum – established in 1903
  • The Arthur M. Sackler Museum – established in 1985

Virtual Tour of the Harvard Art Museums

The Harvard Art Museums also includes four research centers:

  • The Archaeological Exploration of Sardis – founded in 1958
  • The Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art – founded in 2002
  • The Harvard Art Museums Archives – established in 1928
  • The Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies – founded in 1928

The collections consist of over 250,000 objects in all media, ranging in date from antiquity to the present and originating in Europe, North America, North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.

Highlights Tour of the Harvard Art Museums

Saint Luke painting the Virgin” by Master of the Holy Blood

“Saint Luke painting the Virgin” by an unidentified painter known as the “Master of the Holy Blood” is a devotional subject in art showing Luke, the Evangelist, painting the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus.

This composition was often painted during the Renaissance for chapels of Saint Luke in churches.

This scene became increasingly popular as Saint Luke became the patron saint of the Guild of Saint Luke, the most common name of local painters’ guilds.

These guilds were often conglomerate associations of various professions, including painters, paint-mixers, book illuminators, and sellers of these goods.

Self Portrait, dedicated to Paul Gauguin” by Vincent van Gogh

“Self Portrait, dedicated to Paul Gauguin” by Vincent van Gogh is a self-portrait depicting his face as it appeared in the mirror, his right side in the image is, in reality, the left side of his face. 

Van Gogh’s painted dozens of self-portraits; they were an essential part of his work as a painter.

Vincent van Gogh wanted to reinvent painting through the genre of portraiture, he encouraged other artists to paint themselves, and then to exchange the canvases.

Van Gogh received self-portraits from Emile Bernard, and Gauguin and Van Gogh sent this portrait to Gauguin with the inscription “To my friend Paul Gauguin.”

He described the process of creating his portrait in several letters to his brother Theo, an art dealer in Paris, explaining how he modeled his features influenced by Japanese prints.

He added color effect with the contours of his jacket and painted the background in a “pale Veronese green” without shadows.

Piazza San Marco with the Basilica, Venice” by Canaletto

“Piazza San Marco with the Basilica, Venice” by Canaletto depicts Venice’s principal public square of San Marco and Saint Mark’s Basilica, with its Byzantine architecture.

The bell tower dominates the scene and represents a timeless view of Venice while also capturing the details of eighteenth-century life.

Piazza San Marco, often known as St Mark’s Square, is the social, religious, and political center of Venice. The Square is dominated at its eastern end by the great church of St Mark and the Campanile of St Mark’s church.

The foreground portrays the decorative marble pattern of stone pavements that had recently been laid just before this painting was made.

The marble pattern forms an intricate geometrical pavement design, of which little is known about the reasoning for the particulars of the design plan.

Some have speculated that the pattern was used to regulate market stalls or to recall their former presence in the square. Others believe the model was drawn from oriental rugs, a favorite luxury item in this trading center.

Grazing Horses IV, Three Red Horses” by Franz Marc

In 1911, the Der Blaue Reiter group was preoccupied with questions of color, and it was during this debate that Marc started working on Grazing Horses IV.

He wanted to give form to his inner experience and to free himself from formal constraints; he wanted to detach color from its descriptive function and assigned each primary color a symbolic value.

As this painting’s numeric title suggests, Marc repeatedly returned to the horse as a subject.

This painting first belonged to a German Museum, which was at the vanguard of contemporary art collecting at the time. This picture was removed from the collection in 1937 as part of the Nazi campaign to rid German museums of “degenerate art.”

The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train” by Claude Monet

“The Gare Saint-Lazare: Arrival of a Train” by Claude Monet is the largest in Monet’s series of the Saint-Lazare train station in Paris.

While completing the series, Monet worked on all the paintings at the same time, and sometimes he leaned the canvases against each other while the paint was still wet.

This practice caused the cork on the backs of the canvases to be pressed into the paintings behind. The circular indentations in the top two edge of this work’s surface.

Monet’s thick build-up of pigments in this painting is an example of his style in juxtaposing hues in mounds of impasto that would blend when viewed from a distance.

This technique led Cézanne to declare: “Monet is only an eye, but my God, what an eye!”

John Adams

“John Adams” by John Singleton Copley commemorates Adams’s role in securing American independence. It was painted in London soon after the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783. He gestures toward a map of the new lands claimed by the American government.

Adams was appointed as the American commissioner to negotiate the war-ending treaty, the Treaty of Paris. On September 3, 1783, the treaty was signed, and American independence was recognized.

In the background, a classical statue extends an olive branch and lowers a torch in a gesture of peace. Though Copley planned to publicly display the painting in London, it proved too celebratory for British audiences, who had lost to the colonists.

Adams was appointed the first American ambassador to Great Britain in 1785. However, Adams’s tenure in Britain was complicated by both countries failing to follow their treaty obligations.

After his term, Adams arrived back in Massachusetts in 1789 when the nation’s first presidential election was soon to take place. Washington became the nation’s first president, and Adams became its first vice president. 

Harvard Art Museums

  • Name:              Harvard Art Museums
  • City:                 Boston
  • Established:     1883
  • Type:                Art Museum
  • Collection:       250,000 objects
  • Location:         32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Exploring Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge

Harvard Art Museums: The Light Machine

A Tour of American Museums


Take a student-led tour of Harvard University

Art and Competition in the Dutch Golden Age – Harvard Art Museums 


“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
– Benjamin Franklin


Photo Credit: By Daderot (Own work (I took this photograph)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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