Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Oh Boston, thank you so much for this lovely Spring weather. It had warmed up somewhat compared to what we had in Philadelphia and New Haven, but now you’ve bought on the rain. Ta. Still, Massachusetts Ave does look pretty in the rain.mass-ave-in-the-rain.jpgAs does the Boston Commons, but it does render one disinclined to go walking about in it!Boston-Commons-rain.jpgBoston-common-raining-2.jpg
Instead we decided to make a day of staying indoors at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, along with half the city it would seem – the place was terribly busy for what should have been a lazy Sunday. Nevermind, Mr K’s Parking Fairy kicked in, and instead of parking in the Museum carpark for $22 for only 2.5hrs, he found a ‘don’t bother paying on Sunday’ street park closer than the Museum’s own car park. Woo-hoo. Also, love the buy your own ticket machine in the foyer – it didn’t feel the need to scrutinise my student ID like I was from another planet because it had never heard of my University. 🙂 Just inside the door we were greeted by this fabulous Cleopatra statue as a welcoming whet the appetite tidbit… and she made a lovely change to the surly security staff at all the Washington and New York museums and attractions. That’s right, no security checks here at all – all theatre, I tell you.Cleopatra-statue-at-mfa.jpg
And just around the corner from her was the coat check room and this welcoming sign…
MFA-welcome.jpgLove it!

Directly opposite the coat check was a small display of jewellery which ranged from 300BC bracelets of Roman origin to Van Cleefs, Cartiers, Lalique and a host of others. Also this stunning, American flag inspired, Harry Winston mask; made of diamonds, rubies and sapphires. All the pretties, can’t imagine what the sum value of that one little room room is. harry-winston-ruby-sapphire-diamond-mask.jpg We also went into a small temporary exhibit of musical instruments and saw some lovely harps from the 17thC and some 16thC harpsicords.
image*NB – not a harp! image *NB – not a 16thC, this one is much later and the others are stashed safely in my camera.

As it turns out, the entire Impressionist Wing is undergoing refurbishment at the moment which would be a great disappointment for many coming to visit the MFA, and they decided to take a rather novel approach to dealing with having to close off a collection. Rather than send that collection on tour while they are renovating the galleries, they decided to hold an online pole to select the public’s favourite 30 pieces from the MFA’s impressionist collection and host a ‘Boston Loves Impressionism’ exhibit in one of their special exhibition halls for the duration the galleries would be unavailable. So even though the wing was closed, we got a condensed view of the favourite impressionist masters.
The three most popular items were Van Gogh’s ‘House at Auvers’, yet another of Monet’s waterlilly series, and this now well known Degas sculpture.imageRsTSnWO3kYZwphfJ.jpgimage
This small collection, as voted by the public, was really quite impressive. Not the least of which because of the sheer volume of Monets they had in the room. I particularly loved this lesser known work,’Valley at the Creuse in Sunlight’, and really loved the detail of it, which of course up close, just looks like a big ol’ mess. You can see his signature in the second detailed image, signed in 1889.monet-cliffs.jpg
I also love this Renoir, ‘Grand Canal of Venice’ painted in 1881. When exhibited for the first time in Paris, it scandalized the Parisian public with one critic denouncing it as ‘the most outrageous series of ferocious daubs that any slanderer of Venice could possibly imagine!’ Such a fabulous quote. Imagine what they’d make of art today.

Wandering through the museum itself was quite a treat too, much like the MET, it is in an amazing building, this is a quick shot of the fresco above the Rotunda at the centre of the museum.rotunda-ceiling.jpgAnd lurking in a hidden corner was a cast bronze statue from which the enormous marble Lincoln memorial was cast.model-lincoln-statue.jpg

We took an extensive wander through the European Collections, having felt a bit like we had absorbed plenty of American history and culture this trip already, and found it to be a bit haphazard in it’s arrangement. There was a LOT of Regency decorative arts on display and then in the middle of it, this teapot collection covering a time frame… but teapot collection in the Boston Museum, was bound to be something that piqued my intersest,boston-teapot-collection-1.jpgboston-teapot-collection-2.jpg

Bit further into the Regency stuff and saw this delightful English writing box, so well kept.regency-writing-box.jpgAnd this wonderful oak panelled room with lush draper and an enormous carved heraldic mantlepiece. Mr K feels that when we buy our New Haven mansion, we should consider modelling one of the formal parlours on this room (the Chesterfield won’t look too out of place), and keep a locked box for people to throw their mobile phones into while we all sit around drinking brandy and talking politics – yes, I think this place is getting to him somewhat.regency-oak-panelled-room-2.jpgregency-oak-panelled-room1.jpgregency-oak-heraldry.jpg
I snapped a pic of this fabulous ceramic dish which if memory serves was 18th French, but the strong colours in it remind me of all the Turkish ceramics. Love the design.
And then I had that moment when you know you have been travelling too long… sometimes, it’s seeing your friends hiding behind ancient Roman ruins taking a pee, sometimes it’s realising that your passport photo now looks better than you do, but for this trip, it was this absurd comment that let me know it must be time to go home soon – “Oh look. Another wall of Rembrandts.” Yes, I actually said that.more-rembrandts.jpg
I did however have a far more appropriate response to rounding another corner and seeing this fabulous Rogier van der Weyden just hanging there beside me. Simply beautiful. I took about a dozen photos of this with my real camera, I think the gallery staff were wondering what was wrong with me, it’s not like anyone else was paying it any attention. 🙂
And directly opposite a fabulous Heironymous Bosch triptych.
This is “The Lamentation” by Luchas Cranach the Elder (c.1536) and even though it has no cool costuming in it, the guy in red looked like someone we know, so I had to grab some pics.
I loved this painting. These and the ‘artist in his studio’ type thing always make me think the 4th wall of painting has been broken. It’s called ‘Picture Gallery wit Views of Modern Rome’, painted in 1757 by Pannini and was an extravagant souvenir of Rome, commissioned by the Duc de Choiseul to commemorate his stay in Rome as the French ambassador to the Vatican (there’s a job!). I loved that the further I looked into the painting the more familiar Rome landmarks I saw.
Next we jumped forward a little bit and found ourselves in the last of the Regency rooms and into some pre-Raphaelites. Leighton, Millet and Rossetti were represented.
But then cross the hall we encountered a tiny full on Medieval room with a few 13th century column capitals (French), a Limoge enamelled pigeon…
and an entire 12th century Spanish chapel’s worth of frescos! It seemed so out of place here to see these frescos. I have seen many similar Christian frescos in situ in Spain, Italy, Greece and even Turkey (though those are often heavily vandalized), and it seem really odd to encounter such a thing in a museum in downtown Boston. Made me wonder, many people want to repatriate the Egyptian treasure back to Egypt, should items like this chapel, be sent back to Spain?
Then the oddly laid out European Collections spat us out into this gallery which flowed straight into – Contemporary Glass?!?
I didn’t catch the glass sculptors name on this piece, but I liked the juxtaposition with the jaunty coloured glass and the moody (oh, ok… bloody miserable) Boston weather behind it.
I absolutely loved this piece – I searched high and low for the artist statement, name and date info, but as it was standing in the middle of a large room, I couldn’t find it. You can not believe how difficult it was to photograph this glass and mirror installation, but it really appealed to me, so I persevered.
And plenty of detail to show off the piece…
We ventured a tiny bit further into the contemporary art exhibit and saw this Charles Close bit, before deciding to flee the modern art and seek shelter in the comforting gift shop for a bit.
Like most museums, they do have an excellent book store and gift shop, though one thing is starting to give Mr K, the shits. We are wandering through having a look at all the pretties and taking names of all the books I want that I can’t fit in my luggage, but which are readily available on the Book Depository (God bless their cotton socks!), and are seeing all these trinkets and prints and souvenirs with ‘The Great Wave off Kanagawa’ by Katsushika Hokusai represented all over them and wondering if the MFA has a print. And yes, it turns out that much like the MET, they have a copy, and much like the MET, they NEVER have it on display because it is too fragile… but they are quite happy to make money off it in the museum store. Sigh…
So that is now three museums where Mr K might have had an opportunity to view his all time favourite piece of art (which is saying something, because he’s not really into art), and each time, foiled by the desire to conserve. Surely there must be one museum in world with two copies of the print that are prepared to put one on view and save the other for posterity? 🙂

And so endeth our tour of the Boston Fine Arts Museum with a dash through the pouring rain back to the car!

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