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Chasing Beauty book cover

Natalie Dykstra with Chasing Beauty: The Life of Isabella Stewart Gardner

Author Event
May 2, 2024 6:00 p.m. - 7:15 p.m. ET

Join us for a tale of New York, Boston, worldwide travel and collecting during the Gilded Age and early 20th Century.  Chasing Beauty brings to life the remarkable Isabella Stewart Gardner—creator of one of America’s most stunning museums—an American original whose life was remade and sustained by art. Author Natalie Dykstra will take us around the globe and on a very personal tour of her Boston museum, sharing archival photos of Isabella’s dynamic life and of the art she collected.

Born in 1840 to a privileged New York family, Isabella Stewart married Boston Brahmin Jack Gardner as she turned twenty. She was misunderstood by Boston’s insular society and suffered the death of her only child, a beloved boy, not yet two years old. Her grief was unbearable. Isabella’s awe-inspiring world travels and collecting of beautiful things were balm for loss; so were her friendships with Harvard professors and Boston bohemians including Henry James and John Singer Sargent, whose portrait of Isabella was a masterpiece and a scandal. Among her many champions was Bernard Berenson, her art dealer, and a leading connoisseur of the Italian Renaissance.

An extraordinary achievement of storytelling and scholarship, Chasing Beauty illuminates the fascinating ways the Gardner museum and its holdings can be seen as a kind of memoir, dazzling and haunting, created with objects instead of words. Don’t miss hearing from the award-winning author Natalie Dykstra about the complex and singular woman behind this fascinating and beloved Boston museum—a tale of beauty and loss, grit, and American self-invention.

Natalie Dykstra

Natalie Dykstra is the author of Clover Adams: A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life. Her work on Isabella Stewart Gardner has won a Public Scholars Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities and an inaugural Robert and Ina Caro Research/Travel Fellowship sponsored by the Biographers International Organization (BIO). Dykstra, emerita professor of English at Hope College in Michigan, now lives in the Boston area.

Presented in partnership with GBH Forum Network