The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

The Student News Site of Great Neck North High School

Guide Post

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

A popular destination on the East Coast only –a few hours from Great Neck– Boston is known as the location of multiple hallmark events of American history, such as the Boston Massacre and Paul Revere’s midnight ride. However, Boston also possesses a fine collection of art museums. Two stand out above the rest, and happen to be within a ten minute walk of each other: the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

The Boston MFA 

Reminiscent of the Greco-Roman architectural orders, which are most famously seen in the facade of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Boston MFA rivals this famous museum in many aspects.

Encompassing forms of art from all across the globe –from the Far East to Ancient Africa– and all types of media, from multimedia sculpture to oil paint, stepping into this museum is akin to stepping into a microcosm of the history of human imagination and innovation.

Museum Design/Environment 

The diversity of architectural design and interior decoration of the Boston MFA is unparalleled. Curators very carefully arranged the color scheme, spatial quality, and display placement of each room, making the architecture become part of the art. 

An exhibit that epitomizes this quality is the Tiny Treasures collection. Not only were the petite objects adorable and fascinating, but the pastel-colored exhibit and the use of compartmental apertures to house the works made me feel like I was standing in a dollhouse.

The Salon room of The Boston MFA (Credit: Katherine Zhao).

Additionally, in the Wang Family’s Collection of Chinese Painting, one feels immersed in the heritage of the artist through the artificial adobe constructed to resemble the naturalistic white walls of ancient Chinese architecture. 

Another personal favorite is the Salon room – filled with classical sculpture and pensive painting from various 19th century artists documenting their travels across the world, this collection is displayed with golden frames atop red tapestry, invoking a feeling of both comfort and sophistication. 

There is even a recreation of an authentic Japanese garden called Tenshin-En. Composed of elegantly arranged stones and various flower species cached behind a traditionally-designed archway inscribed with kanji, the Tenshin-En garden possesses the authentic charm of naturalistic Far-East landscapes. A fantastic meditative space, this is a fine place to catch your breath upon exiting the indoor exhibits.

Standout Work 

The Community Arts Initiative: from Farm to Craft Table is an exhibition curated by mixed-media artist Alexandra Adamo that seeks to help children in local Boston communities develop creative skills by exploring the wonders of wool crafting. The resulting creations are extremely colorful and thought-provoking. 

An eye-catching piece from mixed-media artist Alexandra Adamo’s exhibition, “from Farm to Craft Table” (Credit: Katherine Zhao).

This first piece is an intricate maze of artificial vessels and bright tendrils, and can be interpreted as a multifaceted mess or a conglomerate of creative thought. When seeing the little animals nestled between the clumps of wool, one feels a liminal sense of safety. Mounted across an entire wall, this piece caught my eye first, as I’m sure it will yours, too. 

The second piece in this collection that stood out to me is this tapestry full of little characters and colorful shapes created by Adamo and the children. Its simplicity and vibrant depictions evoke a sense of childlike wonder and imagination that viewers of all ages can appreciate. 

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 

Just a ten minute walk away from the MFA is the Venetian architectural wonder: the

Isabella-Stewart Gardner Museum. A palatial art collection arranged by America philanthropist Isabella Stewart Gardner, the museum is most famous for its central courtyard garden. However, this isn’t to discredit its other exhibits –its art collection and interior design is an unparalleled treasure that synthesizes works of European antiquity and the artistic legacy of 19th century America. 

The Courtyard 

The courtyard of The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Credit: Katherine Zhao).

Flanked by intricate archways and columns, the courtyard is a symmetrical marvel marked by an aesthetically pleasing color scheme of green, purple, and white flora. An elegant contrast between manmade landscaping and natural beauty, it is rather disappointing that visitors are unable to immerse themselves fully by stepping into the midst of the garden. However, upon traveling to the second and third floors, one can see the garden from truly breathtaking perspectives –its beautiful geometry further elaborated upon with each fresh perspective.

The Art Galleries are even more immersive and thoughtfully arranged than they are at the MFA –since the palace was once meant to be lived in, the paintings, sculpture, and antiques are arranged along the corridors, within stairwells, and atop bookshelves and closets. 

However, while many of these pieces are arranged gracefully, the poor lighting in the interior  often makes most of them hard to see, and mutes vibrant colors. Aside from the courtyard, not much of this museum is Instagram-able. The only works shown in consistently good lighting are the statues that surround the courtyard.

Standout Work 

A display of letters, photographs, and caricatures admired by Isabella Stewart Gardner, emphasizing her passion for all forms of arts (Credit: Katherine Zhao).

My personal favorite display found in this exhibit is a collection of compositions, manuscripts, letters, photographs, and caricatures associated with musicians Isabella Stewart Gardner admired. Not only is the arrangement of the drawings and photos extraordinarily tasteful, but the writings in elegant cursive –though nearly illegible– are a fascinating window into the customs and current events of the 19th century.

The exaggerated flaws of the caricatures and imperfections in the ink humanize what we would otherwise consider impeccable professionals. The sheer amount of papers emphasizes Isabella Gardner’s passion for all forms of arts, and helps us find beauty in unsuspecting objects.


Overall, both the Boston MFA and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum encompass a wide variety of design, and are definitely worth a visit. However, both museums aren’t close to larger urban areas with shopping centers and restaurants, so I recommend you plan your trip’s transportation accordingly. Luckily, Boston’s cheap and easily accessible subway system has a station right in front of the MFA, so it won’t be a hassle to take a ride to anywhere else in the historic city for more sightseeing. 

So, next time you’re traversing the East Coast – perhaps during college touring season – make sure to take a break at the Boston MFA and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum –a serene day for the arts and design is perfect for inspiration and rejuvenation.

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