Last spring we visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston with friends. After entering, we wandered here and there, splitting up to follow our own inclinations. I lingered in the splendid courtyard for quite some time, admiring the falls of nasturtiums, the statuary, the mosaics and the fabulous architecture. Then, wandering through the warren of rooms, I admired ancient artifacts, gazed intently at masterpieces, and simply soaked in the atmosphere of the place. It’s a jewel of a museum.
After a while, I bumped into my husband, and we opted to head to the second floor. On the way to the staircase, we passed an older woman who sat on the low stone courtyard walls with a young girl and boy, maybe 7 and 10. Each of them held paper and pencils, and they were contentedly sketching. As we walked by, the woman held her picture up to the children for inspection.
“What do you think?” she asked.
“I like the arches,” the boy replied decisively.
“Oh, good!” she exclaimed. “I spent a long time working on those.”
Their heads bent together and they continued to sketch and talk.
My husband and I smiled at each other, enjoying the overheard moment together. We’d already visited celebrated artwork by John Singer Sargent, Matisse, and Whistler, but we were just as moved by the amateur efforts and connection of these three strangers, making their own art.