Watercolors and Quilts at the Boston MFA

I had never been a member of any museum until this year, but I did a small amount of math and figured that it would be worth it to become a member of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts if I visited the museum at least three times a year. I’ve already been twice and it’s only April, so I’m glad I joined, though I could do with less junk mail.

In January I saw the John Singer Sargent Watercolors exhibit just before it closed, and it was absolutely fantastic. I was familiar with his oil paintings of course but had no idea he’d painted so many watercolors as well (or painted so much, period. The man was a workhorse). A few of my favorite paintings from the exhibit are included in the preview slideshowVenice: Under the Rialto Bridge, Mountain Fire, and Pomegranates. I also learned in the exhibit that Sargent invented the word Intertwingles (n.) for the interchangeable, entwined forms of the female subjects of his paintings (usually his sister and niece).

This month, my mom and I went to the “Quilts and Color” exhibit. Though I plan to go back and see the Impressionism exhibit that we didn’t have time for, the quilts were really cool. It raised my feminist hackles a bit to see the names of the (male) collectors prominently, while many of the names of the (female) quilters had been lost or forgotten, but their quilts were definitely neat to look at. Here are a few I especially liked, from the more traditional to the Escher-esque:



These photos don’t show the incredible detail of the quilts, the tiny pieces and intricate stitches; they must have taken ages to make. Then again, you couldn’t just go buy blankets at Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and you couldn’t waste time on TV or the Internet because they hadn’t been invented yet. Instead, they did something useful and beautiful.


I wonder if the quilter gave herself headaches making this one.

Magic Eye before Magic Eye was a thing.

Magic Eye before Magic Eye was a thing.



I forget the name for this type of quilt (above), but it’s the kind that’s economical because it uses all the scraps it creates. And the blue is called “Lancaster blue.”

Double Wedding Ring Quilt, c. 1940

Double Wedding Ring Quilt, c. 1940

For all the beautifully curated exhibits, the impressive permanent collection, and the excellent events (Neil Gaiman!), the thing that delights me most at the MFA is this:


Chihuly’s “Lime Green Icicle Tower” (is that its official name? That’s what it’s called in the press release [PDF]) is 42 feet high and weighs 10,000 pounds. Originally installed for the exhibit “Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass,” and designed especially for the space, it was acquired by the museum thanks to patron contributions. And yes, that’s a lot of money to spend on art when not everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water, but…


…it’s pretty gorgeous.





Filed under art, city

2 responses to “Watercolors and Quilts at the Boston MFA

  1. I haven’t felt especially drawn to the quilt exhibit, but these do look pretty neat. I’m planning to go sometime soon to see a cool photography exhibit that just started, so maybe I’ll check out the quilts after all. The green Chihuly piece makes me happy every time I walk past it!

  2. Stephanie

    1. SO MUCH MAIL. MFA, I am 29 years old. I barely read my emails, much less flyers.
    2. I got an MFA membership after for my MLS graduation and it was so lovely to be able to go whenever I wanted. Of the things I miss about Boston, the MFA is top 5 (which might not sound high but I miss a lot of things right now okay.).

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