Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – Virtual Tour
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is one of the largest museums in the United States. Founded in 1870, the museum moved to its current location in 1909.
The museum is affiliated with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts.
A Virtual Tour of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- ” Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel” by John Singer Sargent
- “Dance at Bougival” by Auguste Renoir
- Relief of a Winged Genie
- “The Fog Warning” by Winslow Homer
- “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” by John Singer Sargent
- “Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair” by Paul Cézanne
- “Appeal to the Great Spirit” by Cyrus Edwin Dallin
- “The Slave Ship” by J. M. W. Turner
- “Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny” by Claude Monet
- “Discovery of Achilles on Skyros” by Nicolas Poussin
- “Odysseus and Polyphemus” by Arnold Böcklin
- “The Artist in his Studio” by Rembrandt
- “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” by Paul Gauguin
- “Bocca Baciata” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
- “Portrait of Paul Revere” by John Singleton Copley
- “Flight and Pursuit” by William Rimmer
- “Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome” by Giovanni Paolo Panini
- “The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775” by John Trumbull
- “Grey Eminence” by Jean-Léon Gérôme
- “Madame Monet wearing a Kimono” by Claude Monet
- “The Execution of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, June 19, 1867” by Édouard Manet
- Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino by El Greco
- “Watson and the Shark” by John Singleton Copley
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The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston has more than 450,000 works of Art, some highlights of the collection include:
- Egyptian Artifacts
- French impressionist and post-impressionist art
- Chinese painting, calligraphy and imperial Chinese Art
- Japanese works, including 5,000 pieces of Japanese Pottery
- The Rothschild Collection – over 130 objects from the Austrian branch of the family.
- 18th and 19th-century American Art
- The Library Collection house 320,000 items.
Highlights of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Mrs. Fiske Warren (Gretchen Osgood) and Her Daughter Rachel” is an oil on canvas portrait painting completed in 1903 by the American portrait artist John Singer Sargent.
Gretchen Osgood Warren came from a prominent Boston family and was an accomplished poet as well as being an actress and singer.
She posed with her eldest daughter Rachel at Isabella Stewart Gardner’s Mansion (now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), where Sargent had set up a temporary studio.
Dance at Bougival,” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir made in 1883, depicts two of Renoir’s friends dancing at one of the open-air cafés of suburban Bougival on the Seine outside Paris.
Renoir used intense color and lush brushwork to heighten the sense of pleasure conveyed by the whirling couple who dominate the painting. The woman’s face, framed by her red bonnet and is the focus of attention.
The woman’s body is arched to the dance as she turns her head and looks away, delighted with the pleasure she inspires in her dance partner and herself. Her dress swirls to the rhythms of the dance.
This Relief of a Winged Genie on gypsum depicts a recurring motif in the iconography of Assyrian sculpture. Winged genies are usually bearded male figures with birds’ wings.
This well-preserved example comes from the Northwest Palace of King Ashurnasirpal II in Nimrud. Nimrud was an ancient Assyrian city located 30 kilometers (20 mi) south of the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
The genie wears the horned crown of a deity and the elegant jewelry and fringed cloak of an Assyrian royal.
“The Fog Warning” by Winslow Homer depicts a lone fisherman in a dory who has caught several halibut but now sees fog approaching, threatening to cut him off as he rows back to his ship.
He looks over his shoulder as he faces his most challenging task of the day, the return to the main ship. The choppy seas and the high waves show that the journey home will demand all his physical efforts.
The scene is psychologically disturbing as the risk of being lost as a result of a sudden fog is very real.
“The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit” by John Singer Sargent depicts four young girls, the daughters of Edward Darley Boit, in their family’s Paris apartment.
Dressed in white smocks, the most youthful, four-year-old Julia, sits on the floor, eight-year-old Mary Louisa stands at left, and the two oldest, Jane, aged twelve, and Florence, fourteen, stand in the background, partially obscured by shadow.
“Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair” by Paul Cézanne is a portrait of the artist’s wife. Cézanne was a methodical and meticulous worker who required a model to pose with great patience for extended periods.
This early portrait of Madame Cézanne shows her dominating a canvas built up with many small blocks of subtly varied colored paint strokes.
The subject, Marie-Hortense Fiquet Cézanne (1850 – 1922), was a former artist’s model who met Cézanne about 1869; they had a son and later married. Paul Cézanne painted 27 portraits, mostly in oil of her, and she became his most-painted model.
“Appeal to the Great Spirit” by Cyrus Edwin Dallin is a 1909 equestrian statue that was the last in a four-piece series called the “Epic of the Indian.” This version of the “Appeal to the Great Spirit” is installed outside the main entrance to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It was cast in Paris, in 1909, and won a gold medal for its exhibition in the Paris Salon. The sculpture depicts an American Indian Chief, sitting on horseback with his arms outstretched, palms up and head back, looking to the sky. The Boston version has the light green tones that have developed on the equestrian sculpture over time.
“The Slave Ship” by J. M. W. Turner was initially titled “Slavers Throwing overboard the Dead and Dying—Typhoon coming on.”
Turner has depicted a ship, visible in the background, sailing through a tumultuous sea of churning water and leaving scattered human forms floating in its wake.
Turner was inspired to paint this picture after reading about the Zong massacre, in which a captain of a slave ship ordered 133 slaves to be thrown overboard in 1781 so that insurance payments could be collected.
“Poppy Field in a Hollow near Giverny” by Claude Monet was painted in 1885. Just 80 km (50 mi) northwest from Paris, with rolling hills and cultivated fields of poppies and wheat.
Monet roamed this region during his first few years after arriving at the village of Giverny. Although Monet had started to plant in his garden shortly after he moved in Giverny, his garden had not yet developed.
It had not yet bloomed to a stage that could match the surrounding countryside. Monet instead turned to the nearby poppy fields, which offered a dynamic and varied display of natural color and beauty for his inspiration.
“Discovery of Achilles on Skyros” by Nicolas Poussin depicts the Greek chieftains Ulysses and Diomedes disguised themselves as merchants.
Achilles gave himself away by snatching up a sword that they had concealed in their chests of jewelry and clothing.
The popularity of the “Achilles on Skyros” story was due to the aspect of disguises and cross-dressing.
Achilles dressed as a girl, and women often performed his role. Many of the earlier operas approached the theme from a carnivalesque point of view, emphasizing the comedy, the masquerade, and the homoerotic aspects.
Other Operas focused on the failed struggle to conceal the masculinity of the archetypical hero Achilles, and how the inherent nature of the person is stronger than the nurture he pretends.
“Odysseus and Polyphemus” by Arnold Böcklin depicts an episode from the ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey.
This scene shows Odysseus escaping with his men from the island home of the Cyclopes. The Cyclopes Polyphemus is shown casting a massive rock towards the ship, as Odysseus and his crew barely escape.
In his escape, Odysseus mocked Polyphemus, who he has blinded and boastfully revealed his real names. This act of hubris backfires on Odysseus after Polyphemus prays to his father, Poseidon, for revenge.
“The Artist in his Studio” by Rembrandt depicts the artist’s workshop, at the moment of confrontation between the artist and his canvas.
The easel assumes monumental dimensions, casting a shadow on the door. The canvas depicted in the painting is significantly larger than the actual canvas of this painting.
The artist wearing a wide-brimmed hat and smock and the canvas are the subject in the picture. The large panel on the easel has its back evocatively turned towards the viewer.
The theme of the artist in his studio was a popular one in seventeenth-century Dutch art. In contrast to most Dutch artists, Rembrandt depicts a bare room with the plaster cracked and peeling from its walls.
“Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” by Paul Gauguin depicts three major figure groups illustrating the questions posed in the title of this composition.
Gauguin felt strongly about this painting, he stated:
“I believe that this canvas not only surpasses all my preceding ones but that I shall never do anything better—or even like it.”
Staring with the group on the right, the three women with a child represent the beginning of life. The middle group symbolizes the daily existence of young and adulthood.
“Bocca Baciata” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti depicts a beautiful Saracen princess who, despite having relationships on numerous occasions with eight separate lovers in the space of four years, successfully presents herself to the King of the Algarve as his virgin bride.
The title means “mouth that has been kissed.” The title refers to an Italian proverb, which Rossetti wrote on the back of the painting:
“‘The mouth that has been kissed does not lose its good fortune:
rather, it renews itself just as the moon does.”
The proverb comes from the conclusion of Alatiel’s story.
“Picture Gallery with Views of Modern Rome” by Giovanni Paolo Panini is the name given to each of three almost identical paintings by the celebrated Italian artists in the 1750s.
The picture gallery consists of a large number of paintings of buildings, monuments, and sculptures in Rome during the time that Panini painted this painting.
It is not a depiction of an actual gallery but rather an extravagant souvenir commissioned by the French ambassador to the Vatican to commemorate his stay in Rome.
The original painting shows the arrangement commissioned by the Count of Stainville. He was the ambassador to Rome from between 1753 and 1757.
“Portrait of Paul Revere” by John Singleton Copley depicts the Patriot of the American Revolution in half-length, seated behind a highly polished table, dressed in casual attire.
Revere cradles his chin in his hand and looks directly at the viewer as if he has just looked up from the teapot he is holding in his other hand.
The finished pot remains undecorated, and the engraving tools rest at Revere’s elbow, pointing to the work yet to be completed. Is he contemplating the engraved design?
“Flight and Pursuit” by William Rimmer is set in a mysterious Near Eastern palace depicting a man racing toward a significant set of steps. The man has a red beard and mustache with a large earring.
He is dressed simply in a green cloak over his white tunic and a short blade in his thin belt.
Behind the runner are shadows of other people, perhaps following the runner in pursuit. In a parallel hallway, a ghostly third man in white who is holding a sword. He is running alongside and glances toward the central figure.
Which of the men is fleeing and which is in pursuit is left to the viewer’s imagination. However, a separate draft drawing of the central figure has an inscribed with the words:
“Oh, for the Horns of the Altar.”
“The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker’s Hill, June 17, 1775” by John Trumbull is the title of several oil paintings completed by the artist depicting an early conflict during the American Revolutionary War. The pictures are iconic images of the American Revolution.
The central focus of the painting is Warren’s body, dressed in white, and a British major, dressed in a scarlet uniform holding a sword in his left hand and over his shoulder.
John Small, the British major, is shown preventing a fellow British soldier from bayoneting Warren. Trumbull wanted to express the poignancy in the conflict of men who knew each other and had earlier served together.
“L’Eminence Grise” by Jean-Léon Gérôme depicts the palace of Cardinal Richelieu, the “Red Cardinal,” virtual ruler of France during the childhood of Louis XIII.
Descending the staircase is Richelieu’s chief adviser, François Le Clerc du Trembly, a friar known as L’Eminence grise (the Gray Cardinal), a term that has come to mean “the power behind the throne.”
All of the officials, political, military, and religious, going up the grand staircase bow to the friar in deference to his influence as an advisor to the “Red Cardinal.”
Éminence Grise is french for “grey eminence” and refers to a powerful decision-maker or adviser who operates “behind the scenes” in an unofficial capacity.
Leclerc was a Capuchin friar who was renowned for his beige robe attire, as beige was termed “grey” in that era.
“Madame Monet wearing a Kimono” by Claude Monet depicts Camille, the artist’s wife, in a splendid kimono standing in front of a wall covered in Japanese fans.
Paintings of European women in Japanese costume were popular in France in the second half of the 1800s. Monet’s wife, Camille, is wearing a blond wig in this painting to emphasize her Western identity.
Monet exhibited this work at the second group show of the Impressionist painters in 1876, where it attracted much attention.
“The Execution of Emperor Maximilian” is a series of paintings by Édouard Manet from 1867 to 1869, depicting the execution by firing squad of Emperor Maximilian I.
Maximilian was born in 1832, the son of Archduke Franz Karl of Austria and Princess Sophie of Bavaria. He was encouraged by Napoleon III to become Emperor of Mexico following the French intervention in Mexico.
Maximilian arrived in Mexico in 1864. He faced significant opposition from forces loyal to the deposed president Benito Juárez throughout his reign, and the short-lived Second Mexican Empire collapsed after Napoleon withdrew French troops in 1866.
History of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1870 and opened in 1876, with most of its first collection taken from the Boston Athenæum Art Gallery.
The museum was initially located in a highly ornamented brick Gothic Revival building in Copley Square.
In 1907, plans were laid to build a new home for the museum on Huntington Avenue in Boston’s Fenway-Kenmore neighborhood.
Museum trustees decided to create a design for a museum that could be constructed in stages, as funding was obtained for each phase. The first section of the neoclassical design was a 500-foot (150 m) façade of granite and a grand rotunda.
The second phase of construction built a wing along The Fens to house paintings galleries. It opened in 1915, and from 1916 through 1925, the artist John Singer Sargent painted the frescoes that adorn the rotunda and the associated colonnades.
Numerous additions enlarged the building throughout the years, including the Decorative Arts wing in 1928 and the Garden Court and Terrace in 1997.
The West Wing opened in 1981, which now houses the museum’s café, restaurant, meeting rooms, classrooms, and bookstore, as well as large exhibition spaces.
A new Art of the Americas Wing opened in 2010, and in 2015, the museum renovated its Japanese garden, using traditional Japanese carpentry techniques.
Portrait of Fray Hortensio Félix Paravacino by El Greco depicts a monk of the Trinitarian Order and a major Spanish poet who was also a close friend of the painter. He is shown in the Trinitarian habit.
The Trinitarian friar is presented almost full-length, from the front, with just a slight turn of the head. The habit of his Order has the red and blue cross that gives a note of color to the composition.
The figure is set on a neutral background in which the reddish layer in the background can be seen where the application of oil is lighter.
His eyes reflect the intelligence that characterized this man. Paravicino was a close friend of the artist, and a prominent theologian, orator, and poet.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
- Name: Museum of Fine Arts
- City: Boston
- Established: 1870
- Type: Art Museum
- Collection size 450,000 objects
- Visitors Over 1.3 million per year
- Location: 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA
- Public transit access
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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Map
A Tour of Museums in the USA
- Museums in New York
- Museums in Washington, D.C.
- Museums in Boston
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- Museums in New Haven
- Museums in Baltimore
- Museums in Massachusetts
- Museums in Buffalo, New York
- American Proverbs and Quotes
Map for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Welcome to the New MFA – Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston – Lecture
– Dutch Golden Age
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Photo Credit: By Sculpted by Cyrus E. Dallin; I took this photograph. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons