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.
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.
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.)
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.
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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