The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, opened in 1903, holds a remarkable collection of works from some of the foremost names in the history of art. Works from the likes of Titian, Botticelli, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Raphael, Manet, Degas, Sargent, and Whistler hang in luxuriously intimate gallery spaces, inviting visitors to share in the life, love, and legacy of the remarkable Isabella Stewart Gardner. The museum is in itself a work of art. Three stories of galleries are housed in a gorgeous 15th century Venetian-style building, surrounding a spectacular indoor courtyard that blooms year-round with vibrant plants and flowers. The permanent collection holds more than 2,500 works and includes not only paintings and sculptures but also tapestries, rare books, furniture, manuscripts, and other decorative art objects. In addition to the impressive permanent collection the museum hosts a variety of visiting exhibitions as well as a changing roster of special events including concerts, lectures, and family activities. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum holds a unique, dynamic space for the finest artists of the past and the innovative artists, scholars, and musicians of today.
- Courtyard – A testament to Isabella Stewart Gardner’s love of horticulture, the spectacular garden courtyard is one of the museum’s finest and most distinctive features. Gardner disliked the cold, stark atmosphere of contemporary museums and designed her own with an emphasis on warmth, light, and beauty. The sun-filled garden at the center of the museum gives visitors just that. A spectacular array of flora blooms through every season as sunlight streams through the glass roof, inviting visitors to contemplate the relationship between man-made art and natural beauty.
- Permanent Collection – The Permanent Collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum holds painting and sculptures by many of history’s most renowned artists, as well as a large collection of decorative objects, rare manuscripts, and early editions of classic books. Among the more notable works are Rembrandt’s Self Portrait, Botticelli’s Lucretia, Vermeer’s Concert, and Titian’s Europa, which is considered by Boston museum directors to be the “most important work of art” in the city.
- Programs and Special Events – In keeping with the vision and spirit of Isabella Stewart Gardner, the museum remains a lively and dynamic space for contemporary creatives and intellectuals. Renowned composers and musicians are invited to the museum as part of the Sunday Concert Series, featuring classical, jazz, and modern music. On Thursday evenings, the museum stays open until 9pm, providing various programming that brings together artists, writers, musicians, and scholars to explore in greater depth various aspects of the museum’s history and collection.
- Artist-in-Residence – The Gardner’s distinguished Artist-in-Residence program invites artists from across the globe to live, work, and create in the museum, gleaning inspiration from its unique environs. The visiting artists interact directly with the museum community via a series of lectures, symposia, and live performances.
- Introduction to the Gardner Museum Talk – Monday, Wednesday-Saturday 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm. These 20-minute talks offer the perfect introduction to the museum, showcasing the life of Isabella Stewart Gardner, the history of the museum, and the relationship between the historic building and the new wing, located in the Calderwood Hall.
- Public Tours – Limited spaces are available; first-come, first-served. Tickets are available in the Living Room, on the first floor of the new wing.
- Collection Highlights Tour – Monday, Wednesday-Friday 12 pm and 2 pm. An hour-long tour covering the history and installation of the museum’s permanent collection. Key works in the collection are highlighted and discussed in greater detail.
- Spotlight Talks – Saturdays and Sundays 12 pm, 1 pm, and 2 pm. Spotlight talks invite guests to focus on one piece in the collection, facilitating a deeper level of reflection and discussion. Museum teacher-led group discussions run 15-20 minutes.
- Ask The Gardner – Second and fourth Wednesdays at 1pm. A member of the museum’s horticulture staff is available for one hour to provide a casual forum to explore and learn about the garden’s rare and beautiful flora.
Boston Museum of Fine Arts – The Museum of Fine Arts, another of Boston’s premiere museums, is located just a five minute walk from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In addition to the “prolific” permanent collection–which features to 450,000 works of art—the Museum of Fine Art also hosts world-renowned exhibitions of painting, photography, and other fine arts. Guests who visit both the MFA and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum within two days will receive $2 off admission upon presenting a ticket stub from either museum.
- Isabellas: All guests named Isabella receive free admission to the museum by registering here.
- Museum of Fine Arts Members: Present your MFA member card and receive $2 off admission.
- Birthdays: All guests receive free admission to the museum and/or Third Thursday events on their birthdays upon presenting their ID.
- Go Boston Card: Grab a “Go Boston” Card and receive unlimited admission to over 70 attractions, activities, and tours for one package price.
- Electronic Benefits Card: Visitors who present their EBT card along with an ID receive $2 off admission.
- NEA Blue Star Museum Initiative: US Military and their families receive free admission year-round.
- Red Sox Fans: In honor of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s favorite team, all guest wearing Red Sox gear receive $2 off admission.
- Massachusetts Teachers Association Member Discount: Visitors who present their MTA membership card receive half price on a single adult ticket or two adult tickets for the price of one.
- University Members: Student and faculty of select colleges and universities receive free admission to the museum.
- Bus – 39 to Museum of Fine Arts stop. Two block walk to ISG museum.
- Subway – Green Line E towards Heath Street to Museum of Fine Arts station. Two block walk to ISG museum.
- Car – Three pay parking lots are available at the Museum of Fine Arts, a five minute walk from the ISGM. Limited metered street parking is available.
- Bike – Bikes can be rented at Hubway Stations throughout Boston.
Isabella Stewart Gardner was born in New York City in 1840. In 1860 she married John Lowell Gardner Jr. and moved to his hometown of Boston. With the guidance of Bernard Berenson, a young art historian, Isabella Stewart Gardner began to acquire a collection of paintings by the great Dutch and Italian masters, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Botticelli, and Titian among them. The Gardners accrued a large and impressive collection of art and art objects in a remarkably short period of time, and began to make plans of opening a museum to house their growing collection. After her husband John Gardner’s death in 1898, Isabella Stewart Gardner took on the project herself to fulfill their shared ambition. After purchasing a plot of land in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood, Gardner hired architect Willard T. Sears to design the building, though Gardner herself was highly involved in the planning and execution of the building. The final product, modeled after a 15th-century Venetian palace, bears the distinctive mark of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s style and vision. The museum, at the time called Fenway Court, opened on January 1, 1903 with an evening reception for Gardner’s friends complete with a performance by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. After a long and adventurous life Isabella Stewart Gardner died in July of 1924, leaving in her will an endowment of 1 million dollars to support and sustain the museum.
On March 18th, 1990 two thieves dressed as Boston police officers broke into the museum and stole thirteen works of art. Among them were pieces by Vermeer, Manet and Degas, as well as three works by Rembrandt. The total worth of the stolen pieces was estimated at 500 million dollars, making this robbery the largest single property theft in the history of the United States. The investigation is ongoing and experts remain hopeful that the works will be recovered.