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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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.

It 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.

A Tour of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Masterpieces of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

  • ”Mrs. Fiske Warren and Her Daughter Rachel” by John Singer Sargent
    • 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 Auguste Renoir
    • 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.
  • Relief of a Winged Genie
    • 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
    • “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
    • “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
    • “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
    • “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
    • “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
    • “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.

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.

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
    • Green Line (E Branch)
    • Orange Line – Ruggles
    • Franklin Line – Ruggles
    • Providence/Stoughton Line- Ruggles

Explore Boston’s Museums

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Map

A Tour of Museums in the USA

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

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Photo Credit: By Sculpted by Cyrus E. Dallin; I took this photograph. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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