Easter with Isabel

Gardner CourtyardAlthough we have a random number of days when Spring seemed possible (forget what the calendar says), the northeast is still plagued by piles of snow, cold temperatures, rains, more snow (today) and wind. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on the Fenway in Boston is the perfect antidote. Inside one of the first museum interior courtyards in the US, all is humid, lush and green. Outside there is still snow on the Fenway.  For Easter, cascades of nasturtium vines hang down from the 3rd floor windows.

Mediterranean plants and sculptureCompleted in 1903 in the style of a Venetian palazzo, the museum houses the artistic treasures enthusiastically collected by Mrs. Gardner. Her will stipulated nothing could be moved or loaned, and unlike the Barnes (Archive Sept 2014) this has been honored. The courtyard is filled with Roman, Greek and Egyptian pieces.

Fish tail palmsFish tail palms (Caryota mistis) are native to Burma. Mrs. Gardner’s estate in Brookline had extensive greenhouses to supply vegetable and flowers for her Beacon Hill home and the museum. Mrs. Jack, as she was also known, was famous for her ‘escapades’ as well as her sense of humor…“Don’t spoil a good story by telling the truth”.

ArtemisThis fragment of a life-size figure of Artemis is a Roman copy 100 AD of a Greek original and looks very much at home in this lovely setting.

CourtyardAnother view of the courtyard towards the original entrance, tree ferns, Dicksonia with shorter stems, also convey the Mediterranean feeling. Mrs. Gardner had an apartment on the fourth floor of the building.

Maidenhair fern and amaryllisNear the stone benches lining the courtyard perimeter are seasonal planters like this one with Amaryllis and delicate maidenhair fern.

Patio OrchidsOverflowing on the bench is another extravagant container of Lady Slipper orchids.

Veltheimia bracteataStately and pale, Velthemia bracteata, forest lily from South Africa, rises up among the shiny leaves of what? A kind of domestic ginger? What a wonderful contrast of form and texture.

Othoniel sculptureIn 2012, a new glass wing by Renzo Piano was added to the museum which allowed generous space for a café, library, shop, and a gallery space for contemporary art. The Gardner has always had an artist-in-residency. Now with this space, the work of these artists may be shown. Currently on view, Secret Flower Sculptures, the work of French sculptor Jean-Michel Othoniel.

 Versailles FountainsIn 2011 while the artist-in-residence, M. Othoniel collaborated on a fountain design with French landscape designer Louis Benech which resulted in the first commission of a contemporary garden at Versailles, due to open this year.

 Fountain sketchesOne of the sketches for Versailles shows the animated, dancing nature of the glass balls that form the fountains.

Othoniel flower sculpturesGlass balls in varied tints and shades of red and gold form continuous loops in this large hanging sculpture called Peony: The Knot of Shame.

Othoneil wall panelOn the gallery walls, large monochromatic inked panels explore other variations on these knot forms. Everything is on view until September.

Happy EasterHappy Easter!! Cheers!

About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
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