Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part four


To celebrate my birthday on Wednesday, I played hooky from work and paid another visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  This time I was accompanied by my lovely wife Susan!

As aficionados of Dutch Golden Age art, we made our way first to the special exhibit Class Distinctions: Dutch Painting in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer. The name is misleading as there is only one work by Vermeer and a handful by Rembrandt.  This is not a bad thing as a number of their contemporaries painted some excellent scenes of of 17th-century Dutch life.  Jan Steen stood out as a favorite of mine.   Art was unusually popular among all income levels in the Netherlands of that era, although not usually art as fine as that on exhibit.  The exhibit is arranged to show art depicting the upper, middle, and lower classes each within their own gallery, with a fourth gallery collecting works that show the different classes interacting. Sebastian Smee has a great review of the exhibit in today’s Boston Globe that focuses on the social effect of the exhibit.

Photography was not allowed in the exhibit, so below is a list of my favorite works in the exhibit:

If you look at these paintings on your computer, make sure to zoom in on all the tiny details. The curators on the audio guide were particularly ecstatic about the brushwork.

After finishing that exhibit, Susan picked out a small but spiffy exhibit of American ceramics from the 20th century and then we wondered among the Art of the Americas gallery where we stumbled on a few surprises.

 

Previous visits:

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part three


I made my third visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to slowly explore the art collections, gallery by gallery, piece by piece. You can see my first and second trips on this blog.  On this visit I decided to focus on the Art of Europe galleries. I started out on level 1, which turned out not to always be European, nor even “art,” but the was fine. In fact I saw several wonderful exhibitions. The Kunstkammer Gallery honors the “cabinets of curiosity” that flourished in 17th century Europe and were the root of modern museums. The collections included hand-crafted automatons with videos that showed them working! Pastoral to Pop shows the rapid change in British prints and drawings over the course of the 20th century. And my favorite of all, Unfinished Stories is an absolutely delightful collection of found photographs grouped together by themes.  You’ll never look at your family snapshots the same way.

On the second level, I explored the Italian Renaissance art gallery and learned about Maiolica, the brightly colored Italian tin-glazed pottery.  I then joined a highlights tour of the Art of Europe which took us from a 12th-century Catalan chapel through the works of the Impressionists.  It was an informative hour.  I was able to return to the medieval and Renaissance galleries on my own for a more in-depth exploration, but then my time ran out, so the rest of the Art of Europe galleries on the second level await my return.

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part two


On my second visit to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, I began a slow and studious exploration of the Art of the Ancient World.  I had trouble making a connection with the art at first as there seemed to be no story linking them together.  Galleries adjacent to one another held Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, and Roman art.  Thousands of years, and thousands of miles, and thousands of cultures side by side.  But I did make a connection looking at the sculptures of ancient people and gazing into their eyes.  When face to face with a person it is hard to maintain eye contact, but here I could look into the eyes of humans who lived millennia ago and they had so much to say.  One Greek sculpture, Woman from a funerary monument, almost looked alive in her expression of grief.

To mix things up, I moved on to the Contemporary Art collections. Ancient art memorialized people and honored gods, but contemporary art asks you questions.  The descriptions, the writing on the wall, even the art itself ask questions.  Art here is more a reflection of the viewer, literally in the case of Untitled (Shu-red).  I spent more time that I should be willing to admit trying to take a selfie in its lacquered surface and finding myself delightfully disoriented.  Art also asks the tough questions, like “Why?” and “How can we let this happen?”  A sobering gallery collects artists’ responses to the 2011 earthquake in Japan.  The photographs and film here capture more pain and poignancy than any other news report.

There’s still much more to see and experience at the MFA, so I hope I return soon.

Previously:

Photopost: Getting Dizzy With Izzy


I made another first time in a long time visit to a Boston institution with a day out at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Unlike the Museum of Fine Arts, there is only one work of art at the Gardner Museum, a collaboration of Mrs. Gardner and thousands of painters, sculptors, designers, architects, and gardeners.  This was my first visit since the opening of the new Renzo Piano wing, which is impressive, but seems mostly a utilitarian annex to the historic museum.  It was also the first time I’ve been to the museum since photography is allowed, although only of the courtyard on the main level.  Plenty of scofflaws took photos from the upper levels too, but were only stopped by the guards when using flash.  I followed Mrs. Gardner’s preference of immersing myself in the art and beauty.

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part one


For the first time in several years, I have a membership to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  I’m working on putting it to use by visiting the Museum and methodically but casually working my way through the galleries absorbing the art on display and sharing what I learn.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, I explored the third floor, home to the Museum’s collection of 20th-century art.  It is a quiet place in the museum even on a busy weekend.  A man pushing his sleeping child in a stroller along a window-lined corridor told me “This is the best part of the museum!”

I was impressed particularly by the MFA’s strong collections of 20th Century Art but African-American artists, Boston-area artists, and some who are both. Some artists I learned about for the first time that I’m really drawn to are Eldzier Cortor, Allan Rohan Crite, and Charles Sheeler.  In addition to a variety of modern paintings, sculpture and decorative arts, the third floor hosts an excellent exhibit of photography of Gordon Parks, who returned to his home town of  Fort Scott, Kansas for a photo essay in 1950.

Stopped for a selfie en route to the third floor.
El Fuego by José Clemente Orozco
Cercle du Blé by Matta (Roberto Sebastián Matta Echaurren)

 

Room No. V by Eldzier Cortor
Pigeons by John Sloan.
Tire Jumping in Front of My Window by Allan Rohan Crite
Big Wind In Georgia by Hale Woodruff
Room in Brooklyn by Edward Hopper

 

Old Brooklyn Bridge by Joseph Stella
Art Deco clocks.
The Pool Game by Jacob Lawrence
The Door by David Aronson
Venus by Fernando Botero
Deer’s Skull with Pedernal by Georgia O’Keefe
Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors – 7th Avenue Style by Stuart Davis
New England Irrelevancies by Charles Sheeler
The Arrangement of Things by Ross Bleckner with an appreciator of fine art.

Three Boston By Foot Walking Tours in October


If you love Boston, and wish to learn more about it’s history and architecture, check out the following three Boston By Foot walking tours lead by yours truly in October.

  • 2 October 2014, 6 pm at Atlantic Wharf (290 Congress St at Fort Point Channel) – The Tipsy Tour – This tour is not a pub crawl – it’s an exploration of Boston’s boozy past!
  • 4 October 2014, 2 pm at Dartmouth Street opposite Back Bay Station – South End – Explore one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Boston!
  • 16 October 2014, 6 pm at Massachusetts Avenue in front of The First Church of Christ, Scientist – Avenue of the Arts  – Along Huntington Avenue stands a dense concentration of Boston’s most venerable cultural institutions. From McKim, Mead & White’s Symphony Hall to Guy Lowell’s Museum of Fine Arts this tour will showcase the establishments dedicated to the fine arts, music, theater, education, religion, and sports.

Open Streets on the Avenue of the Arts: Circle the City


Bostonians enjoyed easy access for walking, biking, skating, playing and more on the outbound lanes of Huntington Avenue on Sunday, July 14th thanks to the Circle the City Open Streets program.  Thanks to Walk Boston, I was able to participate in the event reviving my Boston By Foot Avenue of the Arts walking tour.  A small but curious group joined me on the 90 minute walk from the Christian Science Center to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

After the tour, I met up with my wife and kids to take in more of the activities.  My son Peter was drawn to the Super Soccer Stars activities at Northeastern University and happily played soccer with the coaches and rotating cast of children for about three hours.  I had little trouble convincing my daughter Kay to be my copilot on a bike ride up and down the Avenue of the Arts.  We enjoyed the Boston Cyclist Union’s demonstration cycle tracks, listened to a drum circle, watched dancers, heard a loud synthpop duo, rode alongside marching bands, and got high fives from passersby.

Despite scorching hot weather, it was a fun day out for all the family and something I’d love to see more often.  Before I get to the photos, I have two quick, mild criticisms.  First, the map and program didn’t seem to have enough helpful detail about the types of activities going on or even a good sense of where to find some things (for example, I think my tour may have had more people if they had a better sense of what it was and where to meet, but I also had this feeling looking for other activities).  Second, the stretch of Huntington from Ruggles to Brigham Circle felt like the activity tents were spaced far apart.  It’s also a less shady part of the road, unfortunately.  It didn’t seem too welcoming to pedestrian activity and I didn’t see many people walking here.  Maybe the activities should be grouped together more closely to lend it a better street festival vibe?

 

Cross-posted at my Boston Bike Commuter blog.

July 14th: Open Streets on the Avenue of the Arts


This Sunday, July 14, 2013, Circle the City and The Fenway Alliance present Open Streets on the Avenue of the Arts.  From 11am – 4pm, Huntington Avenue will be closed to motor vehicles and open for fitness, yoga, bikes, dance, arts, kids activities, and walking tours AND MUCH MORE.

postal

 

I’m particularly excited about this event because thanks to Walk Boston I’ve been invited to reprise my Boston By Foot walking tour of the Avenue of the Arts.  Imagine a walking tour where we can step safely out into the street to take in new perspectives on the architecture and history of the institutions that line the avenue!  And the best part is that the tour is free.  If you are interested in learning more about the cultural institutions on Huntington Avenue, this is the day to do it.

As we walk along this cultural corridor we’ll explore the history of Huntington Avenue and learn about:

  • landmarks created by two of the most remarkable women in Boston’s history: Mary Baker Eddy and Isabella Stewart Gardner
  • not one but two acoustically perfect concert halls
  • not one but two historical figures named Eben
  • the oldest artificial ice sporting arena in the world
  • Boston’s lost opera house
  • the many innovations and contributions of the YMCA
  • the site of the first World Series game
  • expansion and development at Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • and much, much more

Meet at the Christian Science Center plaza on Massachusetts Avenue at 11 am for the 90 minute tour.  And leave time to make a day of it because there will be plenty more activities to enjoy on our Open Streets!

 

October 30th: Avenue of the Arts – Boston By Foot Tour of the Month


Huntington Avenue photo courtesy of Yarian Gomez's photostream on Flickr

Come out this Sunday October 30th at 2pm for a guided walking tour of Boston’s Avenue of the Arts lead by Boston By Foot guides (including yours truly).  The tour begins in front of The Church of Christ, Scientist on Massachusetts Avenue and the cost is just $15/person.  If you become a Boston By Foot member admission is reduced to just $5 and you get lots of other benefits as well.

Have you ever wondered why so many cultural institutions dedicated to fine arts, music, education, religion, and sports are clustered in one area in Boston?  As we walk along this cultural corridor we’ll explore the history of Huntington Avenue and learn about:

  • landmarks created by two of the most remarkable women in Boston’s history: Mary Baker Eddy and Isabella Stewart Gardner
  • not one but two acoustically perfect concert halls
  • not one but two historical figures named Eben
  • the oldest artificial ice sporting arena in the world
  • Boston’s lost opera house
  • the many innovations and contributions of the YMCA
  • the site of the first World Series game
  • expansion and development at Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • and much, much more

I’m particularly proud of this tour because I originated the idea and collaborated on the research and manual writing.  So please come out and join us to learn more about this fascinating Boston district.

Huntington Avenue in 1920, courtesy of Boston Public Library's photostream on Flickr

Boston By Foot Avenue of the Arts Tour


Huntington Avenue photo courtesy of Yarian Gomez's photostream on Flickr

Come out this Sunday July 25th at 2pm for a guided walking tour of Boston’s Avenue of the Arts lead by Boston By Foot guides (including yours truly).  The tour begins in front of The Church of Christ, Scientist on Massachusetts Avenue and the cost is just $15/person.  If you become a Boston By Foot member admission is reduced to just $5 and you get lots of other benefits as well.

Have you ever wondered why so many cultural institutions dedicated to fine arts, music, education, religion, and sports are clustered in one area in Boston?  As we walk along this cultural corridor we’ll explore the history of Huntington Avenue and learn about:

  • landmarks created by two of the most remarkable women in Boston’s history: Mary Baker Eddy and Isabella Stewart Gardner
  • not one but two acoustically perfect concert halls
  • not one but two historical figures named Eben
  • the oldest artificial ice sporting arena in the world
  • Boston’s lost opera house
  • the many innovations and contributions of the YMCA
  • the site of the first World Series game
  • expansion and development at Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • and much, much more

I’m particularly proud of this tour because I originated the idea and collaborated on the research and manual writing.  So please come out and join us to learn more about this fascinating Boston district.

Huntington Avenue in 1920, courtesy of Boston Public Library's photostream on Flickr