Many universities have art galleries and quite a few have noteworthy collections. However, only a few are world-class museums containing numerous masterpieces. The Harvard Art Museums falls into this latter category.
The Harvard Art Museums combine three of Harvard University's art museums under one roof. The constituent museums are the Fogg Museum, the Busch-Reisinger Museum and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. Together, the museums have approximately 250,000 pieces in their collections. The works range from antiquity to contemporary and come from around the globe. Furthermore, the collections abound with famous masterpieces.
According to the Museums' mission statement: “The Harvard Art Museums bring to light the intrinsic power of art and promote critical looking and thinking for students, faculty, and the public.” They seek to “advance knowledge about and appreciation of art and art museums.”
The three museums have different histories and focuses. The oldest and perhaps best known is the Fogg Museum, which was opened in 1895. It began as a teaching facility with photographs and plaster casts of art works. Over the years, it has grown to have an outstanding collection of western art including works by the Impressionist masters, Picasso, and Sargent as well as works by European Old Masters and leading modernist artists.
The Busch-Reisinger Museum was founded in 1901 as the Germanic Museum. Its focus is on art from the German-speaking countries of Central and Northern Europe. Its collection is particularly strong in 20th century art including works by Gustav Klimdt and the Austrain Secession and German Expressionist artists.
By 1977, Harvard's collection of Asian and Islamic art had grown in size and importance to the point where a dedicated museum was warranted. Philanthropist Arthur M. Sackler made a donation that enabled the university to create a museum focusing on Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean art.
The three museums were brought together under a single roof in 2014. Prior to that, they were housed separately in various buildings around the Harvard campus. For their new home, Harvard commissioned architect Renzo Piano to renovate the building that had housed the Fogg Museum since 1927. While preserving the appearance of the histroci Georgian-revival building, Piano incresed the gallery space by 40 percent while at the same time incorporating various environmentally-friendly features into the building. As a result, the home of the Harvard Art Museums is a modern state of the art facility that still recalls the past.
The museums display works from their permanent collections. In addition, the museums mount temporay exhibitions focusing on a particular theme or a specific artist. There are also various programs and talks for visitors as well as a museum shop and cafe.
The Harvard Art Museums is not in Boston itself. Rather, it is in Cambridge, Massachusetts across the street from Harvard Yard. However, it is a short drive from Boston and Harvard can also be reached from Boston by taxi and by public transportation.
For more information about visiting, see the Harvard Art Museums' website.
For more places to see art
See our Places to See Art index
For more about visiting Boston
See our Boston profile and guide
Articles and Reviews
Art Exhibition Review: "Winslow Homer: Eyewitness"
During the renovation of the museums' historic 1927 building, additional floors and a glass dome were added to the Calderwood Courtyard. The lower levels of the courtyard are from the original building and have a facade modeled on the facade of the canon’s house of the 16th-century church of San Biagio, in Montepulciano, Italy.
Places to see art - - Boston - United States - - Institute of Contemporary Art