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Chasing Beauty: The Life of Isabella Stewart Gardner

Chasing Beauty: The Life of Isabella Stewart Gardner

Author Natalie Dykstra
Publisher Mariner Books
Publication Date 2024-03-26
Section New Hardcover - Biography / Boston / Cambridge / New England
Type New
Format
ISBN 9781328515759

The vivid and masterful story of Isabella Stewart Gardner—creator of one of America’s most stunning museums—an American original whose own life was remade by art. Includes archival photos of Isabella’s world, museum, and the art she collected.

Isabella Stewart Gardner’s museum, with its plain exterior enfolding an astonishing four-story Italian palazzo, rose from Boston’s Fens at the turn of the twentieth century. Its treasures encompassed not only masterwork paintings but tapestries, rare books, prints, porcelains, and fine furniture.

An extraordinary achievement of storytelling and scholarship, Chasing Beauty illuminates the fascinating ways the museum and its holdings can be seen as a kind of memoir, dazzling and haunting, created with objects instead of words and displayed per Isabella’s wishes in the exact placements she initially curated.

Born in 1840 to a privileged New York family, Isabella Stewart married Boston Brahmin Jack Gardner as she turned twenty. She was misunderstood by Boston’s insular society and suffered the death of her only child, a beloved boy, not yet two years old.

But in time came friendships, glittering and bohemian; awe-inspiring world travels; and collecting beautiful things with a keen eye and competitive pace—all these were balm for loss. Henry James and John Singer Sargent—whose portrait of Isabella was a masterpiece and a scandal—came to recognize her originality. Bernard Berenson, leading connoisseur of the Italian Renaissance, was her art dealer.

From award-winning author Natalie Dykstra, Chasing Beauty is the story of the complex and singular woman behind one of the most fascinating museums in the nation and the world—a tale of beauty and loss, grit and American self-invention.

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