By Lindsey Davis
Boston, MA – Anders Zorn was a Scandinavian artist whose talent rocketed him to celebrity status during the Belle Epoque in Europe, his impressionistic perfection earning him scores of influential patrons across the cultural world. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s newest exhibition proves Zorn’s contribution to the modern art world, while also giving the viewer a behind-the-scenes look on Zorn’s personal life, focusing in on his relationship with his major patron in Boston, Ms. Isabella Stewart Gardner.
Unfortunately Zorn was forgotten soon after his death, and his exceptional body of work still remains one of the most overlooked and understudied of his time. The exhibit was organized and curated by Oliver Tostmann, the Gardner’s William and Lia Poorvu Curator of the Collection, who remarked that Zorn’s career was “like a comet” because of its bright, fleeting nature.
The exhibition is organized into five sections within the museum’s Hostetter Gallery, the first historic exhibition to grace these walls. The first section of Zorn’s work comes as an introductory area titled “Zorn and Gardner” that opens up into a large open room of dark blue, where each wall is granted its own category of Zorn’s work: “Society Portraits,” “In the City,” “Country Life” and “Artists’ Studios.”
In the center of the room sits a standalone wall holding Zorn’s portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice, and she’s represented here in glowing white, holding the doors to a balcony open with more vitality than her 54 years might predict. With the city at her back and her pose confident and open, it’s obvious why Zorn is remembered for exceptionalism in portraiture.
Zorn was invited to exhibit in America for the first time at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, where he first met Isabella Stewart Gardner, who became both a friend and one of his most influential patrons in the United States. The exhibit’s “Zorn and Gardner” display includes letters passed between the two, as well as the telegram that notified Ms. Gardner of Zorn’s passing.
“I’m excited on many fronts,” said Tostmann. “It’s the beginning of my work as a curator at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and a new beginning for an artist who deserves a position in the history of modern art.”
(“Anders Zorn: A European Artist Seduces America” continues through May 13 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Hostetter Gallery, 280 The Fenway, Boston. For more information, call (617) 566-1401.)