Have you ever smelled something and felt immediately transported back to a certain memory? Or tasted a food that brought you to that one time in that one place? Or heard a song and thought about someone from long ago? That’s how I feel a little bit about the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. I have been there countless times, under different scenarios with different people, but they are all uniquely their own experiences. These layers of memories bring me back to those hallways and rooms, a jolt of electricity in the air, standing in awe of famous works of art.
I remember visiting as a child, then later on many distracted art school field trips, on dates with my then-boyfriend/now-husband, with the little girls I used to babysit, and now as a full fledged adult (sort of) when I get the sliver of a chance. The air inside is slightly sweet, clean, cool. People buzz about the space of stark white walls, and I can navigate the exhibits like a built in map of my childhood neighborhood. I know this place, and it knows me.
I have favorite pieces in every exhibit, but some stand out more than others- for both artistic preferences and sentimental reasons. I am no art expert, but I do have a BFA and teach art classes, so I must know a little sumthin 😉 Having that perspective and as a longtime admirer of this museum, let me take you on my own lil’ photo tour! Ready?
Art of the Americas
I have a bit of an obsession with early American art and history. From Native American art to the daily life and depiction of the colonial era through the 19th century, I am fascinated by it all.
Fast forward to 19th century American painters- some of my favorite works, as they were heavily influenced by European Impressionism of the time.
Give me a minute to talk about this painting. While I love Hassam (he is an American Impressionist, after all), this is a big sentimental one for me. A print of this piece, depicting a mom and her daughters feeding the birds as the suns sets on the horizon of a snowy Boston, has hung in my parent’s living room as long as I can remember. My mom says it reminds her of her, my sister, and myself and I will always treasure that. So, I must always visit the original and say a quick hello when I’m there. Ok, onwards!
I did a paper on this painting for my 19th century American art class in college, and it gave me such an appreciation for this piece. It slaps you right in the face as you walk in to the 2nd floor, and for good reason. It’s been debated since the beginning because it’s so different than other portraits of the time. What’s with the composition? Why is that one girl facing away from us? What’s with her twin staring but lurking in the shadow? Why is it so creepy?! People have come up with theories from simple girlhood shyness to family abuse and other strange stories. Ah, the mystery, the intrigue! We will never know I guess.
Guys, let me tell you a tale of heartbreak. My freshman year of college I applied to and was accepted into an immersive Egyptian art class that culminated in a trip to Cairo and Alexandria, complete with a Nile River cruise, hot air balloon rides over the Valley of the Kings, camel sightings and more! I was so excited- my first trip out of the country to my number 1 destination! With only a few weeks notice, I received an email from my professor saying the trip was cancelled due to the political unrest and potential danger. I understood the gravity of the situation and was grateful they were putting safety first. However, I was crushed, and I’ve still never been out of the country.
Multiple Egyptian art classes later and my heartbreak lives on, however so does my love for Egyptian art! Here we see some:
This exhibit also features giant pharaoh heads, ancient daggers that King David may have used, and Roman mummies with creepy portraits glued on to their faces! 10/10 would recommend.
I won’t linger on European art because there’s not much to say about Monet or Van Gogh that hasn’t already been overstated. That being said, don’t skip over this exhibit just yet- it’s not my favorite, mainly because its always crowded! Nonetheless, do go see:
Greek and Roman Art
Breeze through the Greek pottery and then to the 2nd floor of the hall of Roman sculptures! It’s funny to read the chat labels here because a lot of them will tell you they are reworked busts of fallen or disgraced emperors made to look like someone else!
Last but deffo not least!!! Some of my favesies from Japan and China!
Some rotating exhibit photos…
In conclusion, I think art unites us. It bridges the gap of culture, age, race, class, religion, language. Anybody anywhere can appreciate a work of art, and you don’t have to be anybody at all really to take in a piece in all its glory. Thank you for enjoying this with me, dear reader!
Jonesin’ to visit now? Pssst- here’s a tip if you didn’t know- its free Wednesday nights after 4 (do make a donation, tho!) and certain holidays! Have you ever been to the MFA Boston? If so, what are your favorite areas, spaces or pieces? Let me know in the comments 🙂 Also, if y’all liked this let me know and I’ll visit and post on the Gardner Museum next (arguably my favorite of the two)!