January 22, 2012

From the Gardner's collection: Anders Zorn

Last week the long-anticipated Renzo Piano wing opened at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.  For the first time in its history, the Gardner will have space for both temporary shows organized from the collection and exhibitions of contemporary art. Curator Oliver Tostmann, who I ran into at a gallery reception in DC this week, told me that he plans to focus on singular masterpieces from the collection, borrowing work from other museums to put the objects in context. His first exhibition centers on a work by Anders Zorn (February 18, 1860 – August 22, 1920), the artist who painted the full length portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner that hangs prominently in the original section of the museum.

Zorn, whose brushwork and subject matter recall those of  John Singer Sargent (January 12, 1856 – April 14, 1925), studied at Royal Swedish Academy of Arts in Stockholm, Sweden from 1875-1880. Famous during his lifetime for portraits, nudes and depictions of water, Zorn's paintings are included in collections at the Nationalmuseum (National Museum of Fine Arts) in Stockholm,  Musée d'Orsay in Paris, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  The Zorn Collections in Mora (Dalarna County, Sweden), a hometown museum dedicated to Zorn, was opened in 1939.

Anders Zorn, Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice, 1894, oil on canvas, 91 x 66 cm.

The backstory: While visiting the Gardners in Boston in February 1894, Anders Zorn made an etching of Mrs. Gardner, which neither of them considered to be a complete success. Later that year Zorn and his wife visited the Gardners in Venice, staying for several weeks as their guests in the Palazzo Barbaro. He attempted again to make a portrait of Mrs. Gardner, but continued to struggle with the task. One evening, Mrs. Gardner stepped out into the balcony to see what was happening outside, and as she came back into the drawing-room, pushing the French windows open, Zorn exclaimed (according to Morris Carter): “Stay just as you are! That is the way I want to paint you.” He went instantly for his materials, and then and there the portrait was begun. (Source: Richard Lingner, "Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice," in Eye of the Beholder, edited by Alan Chong et al. (Boston: ISGM and Beacon Press, 2003): 215.)

 New gallery space at the Gardner. I think that's the original building outside the window. "Yes, it’s designed to have the visitor step in and actually experience the gardens while they’re inside. You can see through the glass out to the gardens, and of course you can see the palace itself. But if you step in a little further and you look left, you can see the working greenhouses. Piano has said that the building is about light and sound, and you can certainly feel that." --Director Anne Hawley on WBUR


Here are images of three other Zorn's in the collection at the Gardner Museum.

Anders Zorn, The Morning Toilet, about 1888 

Anders Zorn, Omnibus, 1892 

Anders Zorn, Portrait of Mrs. Grover Cleveland, 1899.


BONUS VIDEO: Shot in Zorn's charming country house in Sweden (now a museum), the video  includes images of his collections and his log cabin studio.


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thank You*! I greatly enjoy the art of Anders Zorn.