Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, Massachusetts)
Brief History of Boston
Boston was founded in what is now the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1630 by Puritan colonists from England. The town became the commercial, financial, and educational center of the area in the seventeenth century. Boston Latin School was founded in 1635 and Harvard College was founded in 1636.
In the eighteenth century, Boston was the political center of the area. The Boston Massacre occurred on March 5, 1770, the Boston Tea Party occurred on December 16, 1773, and Paul Revere began his Midnight Ride on April 18, 1775.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, Boston published books, set the intellectual tone for the country, and combined thriving commerce with spiritual and cultural pursuits. The problem that many persons saw with the town was that Boston didn’t have a symphony orchestra or a museum.
Legislature Grants Museum Charter
On February 4, 1870, the Massachusetts Legislature granted a charter to a board of trustees for the founding of an art museum in Boston. The city provided a plot of land in the new Back Bay area, facing what would later become Copley Square.
The nucleus of the museum was provided by several art collectors, who wanted to make the paintings they had amassed available to the general public in a central location.
Harvard College wanted to exhibit its engravings and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) wanted to exhibit its architectural casts. The Boston Athenaeum, a membership library which opened in 1807, wanted its paintings and sculpture to be seen, and the City of Boston wanted to showcase its historic portraits.
The Museum of Fine Arts Opens
After receiving news of the many entities who wished their collections to be seen in one central location, the museum began to collect paintings of its own, organize exhibitions, raise money, and do whatever else was needed in order for the new institution to come to life.
The Museum of Fine Arts opened its first building in Boston on Copley Square on July 4, 1876. The museum’s opening coincided with the nation’s 100th birthday and the news of the battle known as Custer’s Last Stand occurring in the West.
The Museum Grows
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, there wasn’t any income tax. Men of wealth could do what they wanted with their money. They could think big and act big.
The trustees of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston decided in 1898, only 22 years after the museum opened, that they needed a new building. They purchased 12 acres in the Back Bay area, and they went to Europe as a committee to study all the museums located there.
The project of visiting all the museums in Europe took three months. At the end of this period, the committee produced a 200-page report on the ideal museum. The drawing which accompanied the report showed a building that covered the entire 12-acre parcel of land they had purchased. The building, slightly smaller than the Louvre in Paris, France, was to be financed entirely through private resources.
The new building was classical in style. The first visitors entered the grandiose Grecian-columned museum in November 1909.