Fellow Wanderer: Isabella’s Travel Albums

February 16 - May 21, 2023
Fenway Gallery

Between 1867 and 1895, Isabella Stewart Gardner and her husband Jack traveled the world. Enabled by their wealth and status, Isabella and Jack crossed continents and countries–Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and the Americas–by boat, by rail, and on foot. On these trips, Isabella collaged photographs, found papers, and botanical samples into albums peppered with watercolors and annotations in her own hand. These albums form an exceptional archive of Isabella’s interests in architecture, art, performance, and plant life, passions that directly informed the creation of her Museum at the turn of the century.

Experience the world through Isabella’s eyes as a traveler in the nineteenth century–and learn about the global influences on her collection and curatorial vision. Learn, too, how her travels were informed by her historical context in a time of European imperialism. Responses by scholars and artists help us examine what is missing from the pages of these albums and how what is present, both real and imagined, reflects Isabella’s perception of foreign cultures from the position of a privileged American tourist. Our contributors are:

  • Alexander Brey, Assistant Professor of Islamic Art & Architecture, Wellesley College 
  • Erin Genia, an enrolled member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Artist 
  • johnette marie, Artist 
  • Siddartha V. Shah, Director, Mead Museum of Art, Amherst College 
  • Stephanie Tung, The Byrne Family Curator of Photography, Peabody Essex Museum

Pages from nine albums are on view in the exhibition and the complete albums can be viewed online in the Collections database. 

Header Image: Isabella Stewart Gardner(1840-1924, American), Travel Album: China, Volume III, page 5, 1883. Bound album including collected photographs, found papers, pressed botanicals, and pen and ink annotations. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston.

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Phot of a group of people
Catalog Cover.


This exhibition catalog, available now features photographs of the detailed pages in Gardner’s albums along with essays by leading scholars who place these sketchbooks in the context of art and culture of the 19th century.

Purchase Here


This Winter/Spring exhibition season join us for a suite of programs including a dialogue on the connections and differences between Saar and Gardner's travel experiences, a Larger Conversation on why we travel, a talk on conservation and cultural heritage, and a celebration of Haitian art and community. Stay tuned for details!



Betye Saar: Heart of a Wanderer

Hostetter Gallery | February 16 - May 21, 2023

Adam Pendleton: Untitled (Giant not to scale)

Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade | February 7– June 13, 2023

Fellow Wanderer: Isabella's Travel Albums is supported by the Abrams Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Wagner Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Wyeth Foundation for American Art and the Getty Foundation through The Paper Project initiative.

Additional support is provided by an endowment grant from the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Media Partner: The Boston Globe

The Museum receives operating support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which is supported by the state of Massachusetts and the National Endowment for the Arts.