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Brilliant Beginnings: The Athenæum and the Museum in Boston

February - August 2013


“… [a] charming, handsomely mounted show… . Valuable as ‘Brilliant Beginnings’ is as a chapter in Boston history, it’s even more so as a kind of time capsule of a moment in the history of taste.”

Enrico Meneghelli (1853–after 1912), Picture Gallery of the Boston Athenæum (detail), 1876. Athenæum purchase, 1876

This exhibition celebrates the historic partnership between the Boston Athenæum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), in the years surrounding the museum’s founding in 1870. The closest ally to the early MFA, the Athenæum housed the nascent museum’s early exhibitions, placed a major portion of its art collection at the MFA’s new building in 1876, and remained an indispensable partner to the younger institution into the 1880s.

This exhibition showcases diverse artifacts that remain in the Athenæum’s collection from this erstwhile alliance—paintings, sculptures, watercolors, drawings, photographs, decorative arts, and archival materials—and places them in their historical contexts.

Hina Hirayama
Associate Curator of Paintings & Sculpture