Come March 30, in one of the most reliable rites of spring–a tradition that dates back to 1903–vibrant nasturtium vines will once again cascade from the balconies of the Venetian courtyard at Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, where they’ll hang for a month. Arching up to catch the sunlight filtering in from the atrium, the bright-orange blossoms add an exclamation point to the Gardner’s already surreally beautiful atmosphere.
Famous both for its collection of masterpieces and the quirky restriction imposed by its founder that the galleries remain exactly as she left them, the Gardner occupies a unique place in the hearts of art lovers. If the MFA is the trend-setting debutante of New England’s fine-arts scene, then the Gardner is the quiet, introverted sister whose comely exterior masks charms and eccentricities that evoke a more lasting passion.
Bostonians have been retreating to this shrine of culture for more than 100 years, and although little has changed in that time, the Gardner’s three floors of curiously juxtaposed art, architecture, plant life, and music are so dense that it’s impossible to visit without finding something new to marvel at.
Although a proposed museum expansion, set to be built in 2010, will give the staff the freedom to curate special exhibits outside the strict guidelines of Isabella’s will, tradition will remain at the core of the Gardner’s mission. And the nasturtiums will continue to hang every year through the still-chilly days of April as a sneak peek at the beauty of the season to come.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 280 The Fenway, Boston, MA. 617-566-1401; gardnermuseum.org