Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Five Favorites

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Five Favorites

About the MFA

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, founded in 1870, opened to the public in 1876 at Copley Square. It moved to its present neoclassical home on Huntington Avenue (near the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum) in 1909. The MFA’s collection of nearly half a million works is particularly strong in art of the Americas (including many works by John Singer Sargent, John Singleton Copley, and Winslow Homer), Egypt, the Dutch Golden Age, French Impressionism, and Japan.

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts. Photo: Alex Feldstein’s Photo Gallery / Wikipedia

1. El Greco, Fray Hortensio Félix Paravicino, 1609

El Greco, Fray Hortensio Félix Paravicino, 1609

El Greco has never been one of my favorite artists: his landscapes generally have a ghoulish light, and his human figures are elongated to the point of insubstantiality. (You might see here and here: but your day may be better if you don’t). The only exception: I love this portrait, for the man’s bone structure and expression.

Cretan-born Domenikos Theotokopoulos trained in Italy, then emigrated to Spain – hence his nickname “El Greco”. He was a close friend of the subject of this portrait, a theologian, orator, and poet. John Singer Sargent recommended that the MFA purchase this portrait.

2. John Singleton Copley, A Boy with a Flying Squirrel,1765

Copley, Boy with Flying Squirrel,  1765

Copley (1738–1815), American born and trained, painted this as a show piece for his first trip to England. The MFA’s comments on it are worth reading. My Sunday Recommendations for 5/27/2018 included Copley’s Paul Revere, also at the MFA. Support me on Patreon for access to those comments, via the compilation of recommendations available to supporters.

3. Fitz Hugh Lane, Owl’s Head, Penobscot Bay, Maine, 1862

American Fitz Henry Lane (1804–1865) painted in the Luminist style, of which I’m particularly fond. The delicate glow of this work is amazing. See this post on the Luminists, with works by Lane, Bierstadt, Kensett, Church, and others.

4. Winslow Homer, Old Settlers, 1892

Homer, Old Settlers, 1892

The usual subjects of Winslow Homer (1836-1910) don’t excite me, but I really like the colors and the way this one is composed.

5. John Singer Sargent, Mrs. Fiske Warren (Gretchen Osgood) and Her Daughter Rachel, 1903

Sargent, Mrs. Fiske Warren (Gretchen Osgood) and Her Daughter Rachel, 1903

The MFA has dozens of works by Sargent. I love this one for the way the daughter nestles her head into her mother’s shoulder. They posed for this work in Sargent’s temporary studio at Fenway Court, home of Isabella Stewart Gardner. The MFA’s site includes fascinating information on Gretchen Osgood.

Almost made the cut 


  • For more in the Five Favorites series, see Museums in the Obsessions cloud at right.
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