Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Known as Fenway Court when it opened to the public in 1903, the Gardner Museum houses an impressive collection of fine and decorative art, manuscripts, and rare books, all the personal collection of Mrs. Isabella Stewart Gardner. Mrs. Gardner, an avid arts patron, and her husband John “Jack” Lowell Gardner, Jr. began collecting paintings for their Beacon Street home in Boston, but soon realized their collection needed more space than they had.
Jack Gardner died during planning for their new house-museum, but Mrs. Gardner oversaw all construction between 1899 and 1901. Fenway Court was built in the fashion of a 15th-century Venetian-style palace. In its bottom three stories Mrs. Gardner arranged paintings, furniture, tapestries and books in galleries, and filled the mosaic-tiled courtyard with gardens and stone sculptures. The fourth floor served as her private apartment. In early 1903, the museum opened to the public, showcasing the Gardners’ collection of works by Michelangelo, Botticelli, Degas, and John Singer Sargent, who used the Gothic Room as a studio.
Today, as per Mrs. Gardner’s wishes, the galleries remain unchanged, and the museum continues to serve as a vibrant venue for art, education, and music. Music has been a central aspect of the Gardner Museum’s activities since its opening, when members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra performed for the museum’s first patrons. New England Conservatory students and faculty have performed in this historic and beautiful space for decades, and continue to do so today. In January 2012, the Gardner Museum unveiled its new Calderwood Hall, part of a major expansion of the Museum’s facilities. The Borromeo String Quartet, a New England Conservatory ensemble-in-residence, gave an inaugural performance in this breathtaking new space upon its opening, while NEC students entertained guests throughout the galleries. NEC’s partnership with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum continues to blend art and music in innovative ways, providing a unique listening experience for audience members.