The new wing of the MFA was opened just a couple of weeks ago and promised much. The Museum was already one of those memorable places from previous visits and for us, we needed no further temptation to spend more time here. But this new development raised the bar still higher – this is one of the great museums, both in terms of content and now, style of display.
We loved the space, the airy atmosphere reminiscent of the new wing of the Metropolitan, NYC, and the way the theme was carried through from the items on display to the display itself. Not only that, here were no secrets: the “behind the scenes” area enlightened us to the methods of curation, conservation and exhibitions. This was very much our sort of place.
We did as we usually do, start at the top and work down. In MFA terms, that meant starting with the recent, modern and moving down to the old. So, one of the first things we saw was this Norman Rockwell painting “New Kids in the Neighbourhood”. We very much like his work and this one captured our attention from the off. A great start!
But these galleries delivered on all levels – here a detail from a 1920s hand embroidered bedcover, beautifully displayed with relevant artefacts from the era and with enough information to enlighten without overwhelming us.
Just around the corner was the high tech, the interactive touchscreen table display which amused us for a while since we had it to ourselves. Quite how this works when the galleries are crammed full of school visits, during the weekends or when someone wishes to make serious use of the facility, I have no idea. But today, for now, it was great!
Throughout these galleries, the one aspect which never failed to impress us was the design which “framed” the choice exhibit. In almost every case, the view was one which focused on the special item, the gem of a painting or key sculpture. So clever. Above, the scale model for Walker Hancock’s war memorial to the workers of the Pennsylvania Railroad is placed centrally in the view.
Moving on into the room of John Singer Sargent’s work, we were immediately captivated by the powerful portraits, as always.
I love the faces of mother and daughter, so beautifully painted, so contemporary in many ways.
Here were other lovely paintings, each with an amusing detail, a small characteristic expression or two.
I particularly liked the portrait of “Miss L” by William Merritt Chase, her clenched fist firmly on her hip in the stance of “the American girl”, forthright, unpretentious and active. Quite a contrast to some of the other, more simpering beauties!
Here, too, was the “Behind the Scenes” exhibit, with possibly one of the few old Singer sewing machines to escape the window of an All Saints Spitalfields store! Here were also a few dilemmas to think about, to consider.
It was these such questions which kept us thinking, talking and considering as we moved through the galleries and a feature which we very much appreciated as an insight into the role of those who have built this new gallery and done such a great job.
Into the next room, then, and I spotted my favourite. Since the very first time we came to this museum, I have loved Winslow Homer’s boys in a pasture.
I was delighted to see it again in a new home – and googling it just now, I realise that I’m not the only one to love it!
But there were other treasures too, including this one of a young woman wearing “Spitalfields Silk”, which is interesting when we were there so recently. There were the salon paintings, hung in the style of a “salon”, with the explanation of how and why the arrangements were worked out. There were room sets from a couple of local homes of wealthy individuals and several of those stiff, uncompromising family portraits which could tell such a story if only they could talk!
By the time we’d reached the ground floor, it was pretty busy and we were ready to take a break. Next time, we must start at the bottom and work up!
After a drink and a short sit down, we took a short look at the temporary exhibition of work by SCAASI, couturier and dress designer to the stars, including Barbra Streisand, whose collection took centre stage in the exhibit.
I think this could be the first fashion exhibit I’ve seen where I could truthfully say that there was not one dress/ensemble which I liked in any way! For sure there was skilful construction, artful embroidery and textile manipulation but for the most part, this was fashion of an era which I didn’t find at all appealing.
Or perhaps I was simply overwhelmed by the riches I’d already seen this morning?
Whatever. The Boston Museum of Fine Arts remains a favourite place to visit and we agree with all the praise heaped upon the new development, which has made it more memorable than ever. We loved it.