Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924)


(Art Collector)

Isabella Gardner was born into the wealthy Stewart family of New York City. Married to John "Jack" Lowell Gardner and known for her flamboyant personality, she was an eccentric fixture of Boston society. From the late 1870s she began collecting in earnest, starting with rare books and manuscripts. Making her acquaintance, possibly at one of Norton's famed Dante lectures, had a profound impact on Bernard. First, she became the main benefactor in a group assembled by Edward Perry Warren that provided financial support for Bernard's travels to Europe after he was denied the Parker Fellowship.  Isabella knew of Bernard’s aspirations to become a writer, and, having read some of his articles that appeared in the Harvard Monthly, believed in his talent. Later, when the collecting interests of “Mrs. Jack” shifted to paintings, Bernard became her principal advisor, especially regarding Italian art. Over the course of their long friendship, Gardner provided great encouragement to Bernard and a financial means to pursue his and Mary's scholarship, art criticism, and collecting activities.

See the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum here