The Letters of Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner 1887-1924

Available exclusively through Gift at the Gardner, The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is thrilled to offer a limited re-print of an "indispensable edition."

The portrait of a spirited friendship in letters

When Isabella Stewart Gardner agreed to sponsor the career of and aspiring young writer named Bernard Berenson, neither dreamed that together they would build one of this country's most impressive collections of Italian Renaissance painting. The correspondence between Bernard Berenson and Isabella Stewart Gardner offers fresh insight into the origins of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and gives voice to an enduring friendship that created and nurtured it.

The more than eight hundred letters included in this volume record the evolving relationship between two singular personalities: a flamboyant socialite known for lively eccentricities and her engagement with the arts; and the brilliant connoisseur and America's leading expert on Italian Renaissance painters. Their correspondence spans nearly four decades and presents a vivid portrait of their passionate interests, their perennial travels and their liaisons with artists and intellectuals on both sides of the Atlantic, including Edith Wharton, Walter Lippmann, Sarah Bernhardt, John Singer Sargent, and George Santayana.

Mary Berenson, who abandoned her comfortable and conventional first marriage to become protégée and, later, the wife and close collaborator of Berenson, becomes correspondent after 1901. Indeed, Mrs. Gardner's hunch that she now had "two friends instead of one" is borne out in the lively series of letters from Mary, who comes to play an increasingly vital role in her husband's multifaceted achievements.

The reprint of this indispensable 1987 edition includes a new preface co-authored by Dr. Machtelt Bruggen Israels, guest researcher, University of Amsterdam, and Dr. Carl Brandon Strehlke, curator emeritus, Philadelphia Museum of Art. Together they explore the relationship between Isabella Stewart Gardner and Bernard Berenson that emerges from the correspondence. Meticulously edited and annotated by Rollin van N. Hadley, former director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, these elegant and entertaining letters continue to be an enduring resource for art historians and others concerned with the development of connoisseurship and the evolution of taste. At the same time, they pay tribute to a remarkable museum and the very personal visions that brought it to life.

Edited and annotated by Rollin van N. Hadley, former director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
718 pages
Published by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 2016
9.1 x 1.8 x 6.4 inches