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Boston at Christmas: Beauty, History, and That New England Frankness

Boston at Christmas: Beauty, History, and That New England Frankness

I'm grateful for the way my city has nourished my art and imagination.

There is a wonderful painting by the 19th-century American artist Childe Hassam titled "Boston Common at Twilight" (above)—a wintry scene that is nevertheless warm and inviting, with golden backlighting and gaslights twinkling-on at the end of the day; its street cars and formally attired people feeding the hungry wintering birds.

Hassam's vision of Boston mirrors my own feeling about the place, with its patina of history and beautiful architecture, its gardens and green spaces and its great institutions. Having lived in the city for nearly a decade, and in its nearby orbit in Gloucester for another 30 years or more, I love the place and consider it to be my home.

As most people know, Boston was founded only 10 years after the Plymouth landing of 1620, and was birthplace to many of the founding figures in American history (as well as home to the original "Tea Party" and the beginning of the American War of Independence in 1776).

Boston is a unique place in so many ways—but chiefly, to my mind, because of its educational, medical, and artistic institutions, some of the best and most time-honored in the land. Boston has five world-class art museums, among them the MFA, the Isabella Stewart Gardiner, the Fogg and Sackler museums at Harvard, and the Institute of Contemporary Art. These institutions as well as the city itself—a wonderful classroom and museum all its own—have nourished me for most of my adult life, and all my professional life.

Forty years ago, as a young artist looking for training, I moved to Boston and enrolled in art school. I slowly gained knowledge of this place and its history, and I grew to love the particular feel of its winding streets, the great Charles River dividing Boston from Cambridge, and the lovely architecture that echoes its European ancestry. I found the relatively quiet pace and tenor of city life here to be hospitable to my particular artistic dreams, which included attempting to make art that evokes a contemplative space and time.


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Displaying 1–4 of 4 comments


December 22, 2011  5:01pm

Thanks for your comments folks. Though I wasn't raised in Boston, I've spent almost my whole life either in or immediately around the city. The decade I spent living there was in an inner city African American neighborhood -- impoverished financially but not spiritually or socially. Not even a little "gentrified"...and all the artists I knew there lived at the margins financially -- again, hardly cause to worrynover CT caving to a privileged crowd. Peace, Bruce Herman


December 20, 2011  6:32pm

@John - how is someone who has lived in Boston for 40 years = gentrified? And how far back should they go? Only people who can trace their ancestry to colonial times? Besides, the nature of the modern city is that it is full of transient people who have interesting and thoughtful perspectives.


December 20, 2011  4:45pm

*Sigh* Looks like CT's This Is Our City is already gentrified. It'd be great to hear more from those actually born and raised in the city.

E Harris

December 20, 2011  1:32pm

Thanks for your article, Bruce.


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