Groove out to your own Wanderlust on September 18!

10 09 2008

Sigh, wanderlust, it’s the best word isn’t it? It conjures up a longing for travel a la On the Road or The Sun Also Rises (hmm…I think my own summer reading is influencing this post!). But seriously, what better way to kick off a new year of After Hours than exploring the idea of travel as a means for soul searching exploration? Of course you can always just come, grab a drink with a friend, check out the galleries and skip the soul searching bit!

Gardner herself was inveterate traveler, heading to Asia for several months during the late 1880s. Who knew that over 130 years later those incredible travels would inspire another person? For those of you haven’t seen artist Luisa Rabbia’s video project Travels with Isabella, the September 18 After Hours is your chance!

Here, Rabbia has created a moving video of images from Gardner’s own travel scrapbooks from her Asia voyage, fused with drawings by Rabbia. Both old and new, this piece is such a great example of the residency program at the museum and how bringing living artists to the museum infuses the Gardner with new ideas and ways of looking.

Dr. Magpie

Also not to miss is our first After Hours PLUS concert by Dr. Magpie, a fantastic string jazz group fresh out of Berklee College of Music.

Named for a bird that chatters and improvises, Dr. Magpie is composed of six of Berklee’s finest string instrument players, who’ve come together to create a sound that draws equally from Appalachia, New York (both uptown AND downtown), and the freewheeling Left Bank of prewar Paris. It includes two fiddles, two guitars, mandolin, and bass!
Julie Crites is Director of Program Planning for the Gardner Museum and the grand pooh-bah of After Hours. An avid food-lover, gallery-goer and jewelry-maker, Julie is the brains behind at least a couple of the sake-tinis you’ll enjoy over the months at After Hours, so raise a glass to her the next time you’re in the courtyard. You can reach her at jcrites at isgm dot org

Garden of Earthly Delights

8 05 2008

Isabella Gardner in the conservatory at Green Hill, 1905. Photographer Thomas E. MarrIsabella Stewart Gardner was an avid and skilled gardener and landscape designer. It may be possible that her initial interest in horticulture came through her grandmother Isabella Tod Stewart, who received awards for agriculture from the state of New York (which Isabella put on display in the Short Gallery of the museum). Her home at 152 Beacon Street, Boston, was filled with tropical plants, large palms and ferns. She took advantage of large bay windows overlooking the sidewalk below to create a changing display of flowers visible to all passers-by. The flowers were grown by her father-in-law, John Lowell Gardner, Sr. whose relationship with Isabella possibly focused her gardening interests. John Sr. was a member of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society and received many show awards for ornamental plants and vegetables. His extensive gardens at Green Hill, Brookline, were recognized in Boston and beyond, for their beauty and attention to detail.

Japanese Garden, Green Hill, 1905. Photographer Thomas E. Marr.Isabella and her husband inherited Green Hill in 1883 and she continued to reside there seasonally until 1919. Working with John Lowell Gardner Sr.’s English gardener, Charles Montague Atkinson, she honed her skills. With its extensive greenhouses, Green Hill provided an opportunity for her to explore plants and garden design. She continued to participate in the Massachusetts Horticultural Society annual shows and her efforts were rewarded with many awards for her floral entries. In addition, she created several theme gardens at Green Hill, including an Italian garden, an ‘English lawn’ and a Japanese Garden. Her gardening experience was manifest in the creation of the courtyard and gardens at Fenway Court in 1900, a “garden beautiful” to compliment the “house beautiful” within.

Top photo: Isabella Gardner in the conservatory at Green Hill, 1905. Photographer Thomas E. Marr.

Bottom photo: Japanese Garden, Green Hill, 1905. Photographer Thomas E. Marr.

– Kristin

As the Gardner Museum’s archivist, Kristin Parker tends to photographs and documents relating to Mrs. Gardner as carefully as Isabella tended her own gardens. Click here to read her most recent post on Mrs. Gardner’s travel scrapbooks.

Mrs. Gardner Abroad

13 02 2008

Isabella’s India Travel ScrapbookMrs. Gardner compiled 27 scrapbooks during her extensive world travels which included, in part, journeys to Europe, Turkey, Japan and Cuba and each experience was carefully recorded. In some scrapbooks, her observations are made in the style of an anthropologist taking field notes, as she sketched and defined hieroglyphics and illustrated monuments or jotted down excerpts from local myths. In others she included photographs purchased at local photographer’s shops, which catered to the tourist industry. Mrs. Gardner dedicated Sundays to her scrap booking, pasting photographs, pressed flowers and other ephemera into her books. The scrapbooks illustrate the link between her early travels and the later construction of her museum.

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Isabella’s advice for the holiday table

9 11 2007

Mrs. Beeton’s Supper Table illustration

As was the custom in nineteenth century society, great wealth brought civic responsibility. Mrs. Gardner fulfilled her duties with unusual flair. Fenway Court (the turn-of-the-century moniker for today’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) was the setting for events to benefit local charities as well as support for artistic creation. These events included an annual garden competition, plays performed in the Gothic Room, and modern dance performances. Concerts and lavish dinner parties also took place. Read the rest of this entry »

We’ve got rhythm

17 10 2007

Take a sneak peak at this month’s gallery tour:

Sure, we have concerts every Sunday in season, performances throughout the year, and other hip events, but what is the rhythm of the Gardner? Seems obvious that old Isabella Gardner had style, but did she have rhythm? Could she boogie in those heavy, silk and satin, Victorian duds she wore? Let’s look to the design of her museum for answers. This is a short lesson in close looking and spatial awareness.

Think back about how you entered the museum. The entrance hall is low-ceilinged and cramped. Walking into the Spanish Cloister area gives you a bit more breathing room, and you see some art, and a little more interesting scenery. Once in the cloisters, windows allow views outside, and you get obstructed views of the courtyard. Most people naturally move toward the court to get the full view. When finally standing at the edge of the court, space, light, and color explode before you.

The short journey takes you from small, constricted, dark spaces to wide open wonder!

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Music in the archives…

11 10 2007

Program from the Manuscript ClubIn 1888 the Manuscript Club gave its first concert at 152 Beacon Street, Mrs. Gardner’s first Boston home. A local paper, Town Topics, described the club that year: “Mrs. Gardner’s latest triumph in Boston is the successful launching of a new musical organization called the Manuscript Club, wherein all the several amateur musicians in town play their own compositions.” The Club had been organized to secure for local composers an intelligent and sympathetic hearing of their compositions and included local female composers – an avant garde idea for the times.

Notice the signature of Margaret Ruthven Lang. [Just click on the image at left to zoom in.] Five years after playing for Mrs. Gardner, in 1893, the Boston Symphony Orchestra programmed Lang’s “Dramatic Overture” and it became the first orchestral work written by a woman performed by an American orchestra.

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Preview of coming attractions

20 09 2007

A taste of tonight’s tour of the galleries, in search of Asian objects:

Asian objects make up the third largest category of artworks at the Gardner Museum, after Italian and American art. Isabella Gardner’s interest in Asia began in 1883–84, when she and her husband Jack visited Japan, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, and India. She bought only a few things on this trip, but filled scrapbooks with photographs, notes, flowers, and assorted souvenirs.

Then, around 1901–3, Isabella bought Japanese screens and Chinese scrolls, along with carved and painted wooden panels. Most of these came from dealers’ shops here in Boston. A decade later, she sought a few select masterpieces of Asian art.

Isabella left nothing about why she collected what she did, but you can see from this chronology that an interest in Asia and Asian art ran throughout her life… Read the rest of this entry »