Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Just let me say this. Isabella Gardner was one crazy broad.
By all accounts she was brash, extravagant and she didn't care what anyone thought about her.
When your filthy rich you can be like that.

She rode elephants in the jungles of Cambodia and once staged a boxing match in her living room.
How can you not like a lady who often greeted her guests while sitting up in a tree?
She once said, "Don't spoil a good story with the truth."
She sounds like someone I would like to share a beverage with, but I can't.
She died in 1924.

I learned all this while reading "The Gardner Heist," a true story of the worlds largest unsolved art theft.
Front and center in this story is the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum, in Boston, MA.

It seems Isabella's hobby was collecting art from around the world. At the time of her death her home had been transformed into an Art Museum, displaying her world class collection.
All the biggies were represented. Vermeer, Degas, Manet and Rembrandt just to name a few.

Then, one night, 2 art lovers must have come to the conclusion that they just weren't getting enough satisfaction from viewing the art, so they took it themselves to remove some of the canvas's and hit the road, leaving the frames sitting vacant, now telling a different story.
Their catch was worth $500 million.

The empty frames are still on display to this day, framing only the silk backing that once padded Rembrandts "Storm of the sea of Galilee" and Vermeer's "The Concert," among others.

I didn't know that Rembrandt, was Rembrandt's first name. He only went by that one name.
You know, like Madonna, Michael, Koby and Labron.
No last name needed for this hotshot artist.
One of the pieces stolen that night in 1990 was Rembrandt's self portrait. Fear not, he painted 90 other self portraits that are out and about to this day.
90 self portraits? That gives new meaning to the phrase, "It's all about me."
I guess he has more in common with Labron than just that first name thing.

His story is a sad one. After changing his style from the popular portraits he did, he moved to a darker style that the people didn't like as much.
At age 50 he was bankrupt. He died penniless and was buried in an unmarked grave.

When I hear the term "dark", in explaining an artists style, I can't help but think of my cousin Tom Toner who was a very accomplished artist in his own right. You can google him to get his story if you like.
The important thing here is, Tom painted stuff that scared the bejesus out of me when I was a little kid. Tom was much older than me, so when I was about 6 or 7, he had already painted and hung many pieces throughout my Aunt Mary's house. I mean, I was so scared of these paintings, I was actually brought to tears one time. That dude painted some errie stuff.
This picture below is his, I grabbed it off a Art site.

I have learned this painting was done around 1959.
I would have been about 4 years old. See what I mean?
I swear I thought Aunt Mary's house was haunted.

I think my daughter Keely has the same artistic blood lines as my cousin Tom.
Although she uses lots of color, her paintings are not conventional, always a lot going on and sometimes chaotic.
Once after getting sucked in to one of her latest paintings, upon looking up it seemed as if days had passed.

This is oil on glass, illuminated with a light inside the box.

Anyway, hopefully no one will steal her art.
The Gardner Museum has a reward still out for the return of the missing art.
It's $5 million.
It's the 2nd largest reward ever posted, behind only the $25 million for the capture of Osama bin Laden.


slommler said...

Great post and wonderful history lessons! It is sad to know that Rembrandt died penniless! Look at his paintings today??

Karen said...

Love this post, Mark.. very interesting and I did not know these things about Rembrandt!..

And I have to say it.. .your family's art is definitely... dark! But there is clearly talent! And it would scare the bejesus out of me too....

nacherluver said...

Isabella sounds amazing! I can't imagine how shocking she must have seen in that day and time. Love that she lived who she was and did not try to be anything else. My husband flunked art class when he was young because he painted some "dark" paintings. It was what he was feeling at the time. His parents were furious, his teacher disgusted. He is a brilliant artist and is just now starting to allow himself to create again. His art is no longer dark, but even so, it would be his. Love that your family members let their lights (or should I say, darks) shine ;)

beth said...

your daughter is really talented....seriously, really talented. you heard me, right ?

dcpeg said...

Marvelous story and so well written, Mark! Your family sounds like it has some very interesting members!

You might enjoy reading a biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of T.R. and widow of a Speaker of the House. She and Isabel had a lot in common.

Dan Kent said...

Excellent post. Very interesting about the threats, and about Rembrandt. You need to warn your cousin and daughter that in the Harry Potter Movies it is always the teacher of the dark arts that gets axed! Very talented family (you included, of course).

Jerral Miles said... now it becomes clearer. It's your genes. You were obviously born into a family of artists. It's easy to see why you were creeped out by your cousin Thomas Toner's paintings... but I'll bet ol' Hieronymus Bosch's relatives were just a bit afraid to go to sleep in the same room with some of his paintings. I didn't know Toner's work until you brought him to my attention... Now I'm going to be on the lookout for his name and for his work... He was obviously very talented... and about your daughter just as obviously got Cousin Thomas' and your genes. She is awesome... I'll bet she winds up giving Cousin Thomas a run for his money as the big- time artist in the Finucane family.