Art for Thought at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Rembrandt, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee", one of the 13 stole artworks | photo courtesy of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Rembrandt, “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee,” one of the 13 stole artworks.  |  Photo courtesy of Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

This past Tuesday, March 18, was the 25th anniversary of the art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. In 1990, thirteen works of art, including works by Rembrandt, Manet, and Degas, were stolen. Last year, new evidence flooded the museum, in which the identities of the thieves, although not the current location of the missing paintings, were found. Currently, the museum is offering $5 million dollars for information leading to the recovery of these works.

The frames of the missing pieces are still hanging on the wall which gives the space a rather romantic, eerie feel. Despite the missing art works, there are plenty of modern and historical works of arts to be seen – all the vision of one woman, Isabella Stewart.

Isabella Stewart (1840-1924) was a philanthropist born in New York and married to John Lowell Gardner Jr. (“Jack”) in 1860. Her travels around the world inspired her passion for art and the collection of it. Stewart collected a remarkable amount of Impressionist and Renaissance paintings as well as other historical and modern works. The museum not only houses many of her art pieces but also collectibles, like signed autographs from presidents. Though she hired an architect to construct the house, she insisted that it be built to her style. This house was called Fenway Court and opened in 1903.

Though not everyone may have a style like Stewart’s or be a philanthropist, any normal civilian can take a stroll through the gardens and appreciate the wonderful collectibles and artwork at the museum.

If you happen to visit the museum on the Third Thursday of each month, check out the informal talks, performances, and art activities offered. The theme for last Thursday was Bella Notee, where attendants were able to escape the winter and enter Boston’s own Venetian palazzo. Italian music was performed in the garden and heard throughout the museum, setting a peaceful tone while enjoying collectibles and artwork.

pocket-sized travel journals | photo courtesy of Michelle Cheng
Pocket-sized travel journals.  |  Photo courtesy of Michelle Cheng.

However, if seeing but not touching may seem like the signature characteristic of all museums, think again. During Third Thursdays, attendants can participate in the studio art activity, and it wasn’t your typical arts and crafts. Attendants had the opportunity to create a pocket sized leather-bound sketchbook. Suede, cord, and colorful papers were provided to create a one-of-a-kind mini book.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is like none other. While the Museum of Fine Arts may be overwhelming, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum can be explored in a day. Find yourself a place to relax in this ambient environment and you will easily imagine that you are in a warmer, more exotic destination (or any place other than Boston). And though we may not all have the privileges to be buying all the riches in the world, at least we can dream and constantly be inspired by the visuals around us. The museum allows attendants to blissfully enter the art world and forgot about reality for some time.

If interested in future Third Thursdays (free for BU college students), check out the event here.


About Michelle Cheng

Michelle Cheng (COM '17) is the Managing Editor of The Quad. She writes about higher education, digital culture and lifestyle. She has previously interned at Forbes, New York Family and Upworthy. Reach her at

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