The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is one of the country’s largest museums, with impressive collections of American, Asian and European art. It is housed in an early twentieth century Neoclassical building.
The Boston Museum of Fine Arts was founded in 1870 and is one of the oldest museums in America. It was originally housed in the Boston Athenaeum near Boston Common.
As the museum expanded in 1876 it moved to a new Victorian Gothic building at Copley Square. This building soon became too small as well, and in 1909 the museum moved to its current building at Huntington Avenue in Fenway.
The Neoclassical structure was designed by Guy Lowell, an American architect who had studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. A central classical portico leads to a rotunda in the main building, which is flanked by two wings, each fronted with smaller classical porticoes.
The wings are arranged around a courtyard, on which a bronze equestrian statue – ‘Appeal to the Great Spirit’ – was placed in 1913. The back side of the building, a long colonnade of Ionic columns, is even more monumental than the front.
A major expansion in 1981 led to the creation of the modern West Wing, designed by the renowned American architect I.M. Pei, who was also responsible for the Louvre Pyramid, the modern entrance to the Louvre Museum.
The museum was expanded again with the opening of the Art of the Americas Wing on November 20, 2010. This new wing was designed by the architectural firm of Foster + Partners, who are probably best known for their modern renovation of the Reichstag in Berlin. In contrast with the historic building, the new wing has no ornamentation but plenty of irregularly patterned glass, allowing as much natural light into the building as possible.
The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has one of the country’s finest collections of American Art, thanks to Boston’s important position in the history of the New World. The museum owns more than 60 portraits by the local painter John Singleton Copley. Other notable artists include Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer and Fitz Hugh Lane, known for his nautical paintings. Modern artists featured include famous names such as Jackson Pollock and Georgia O’Keeffe.
The museum also has a large collection of European paintings and sculpture. The impressionists are especially well represented with works by Renoir, Monet, Manet and other renowned artists. The European decorative arts collection is also interesting, with several galleries displaying silverware, porcelain and furniture from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
Egyptian art is well represented, with many old sculptures and a number of painted mummy masks, some even gilded. The Nubian collection is one of the world’s best, with many fine sculptures and exquisite jewelry on display.
Asian art was very popular with Boston collectors during the nineteenth century, hence the museum’s impressive Asian art collection, which is spread over almost twenty galleries, with displays of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Himalayan and Indian art.
The museum also houses collections of the obligatory Greek and Roman art, as well as arts from Oceania and Africa.