Boston’s Best Murals

September 30, 2013 6:00 AM

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The Sargent Grand Staircase Murals (Photo credit: MFA.org)

The Sargent Grand Staircase Murals (Photo credit: MFA.org)

Like many cities, Boston’s artwork includes larger-than-life murals, but what stands out about this city’s murals is the diversity in culture and era. There are murals dating back to the turn of the century and some painted in the past decade. Each lends its own appeal to guests and citizens of the city. Which are best is subjective, but some certainly stand out for clear reasons that all art fans can appreciate. Get the necessary walking shoes and museum passes; it is time to tour Boston’s best murals.
The Sargent Grand Staircase Murals (Photo credit: MFA.org)

The Sargent Grand Staircase Murals (Photo credit: MFA.org)

The Sargent Grand Staircase Murals 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
465 Huntington Ave. 
Boston, MA 02115 
(617) 267-9300 
www.mfa.org  

John Singer Sargent is one of Boston’s most famous artists. He lived and worked in the late 1800s and early 1900s, adorning several important buildings in Boston with his murals. Besides the Museum of Fine Arts murals, he also added his skill to Harvard University and the Boston Public Library. However, the grand staircase murals at the MFA are so vivid and beautiful as to stand out to any guest of the museum. They portray mythical heroes like Hercules and gods like Apollo painted loftily above the grand staircase area where they belong.

‘Mother Earth’ By The Mayor’s Mural Crew 
Columbus Ave.
Roxbury, MA 02119
(617) 635-3245 
www.publicartboston.com  

The so-called Mayor’s Mural Crew is a group of local artists commissioned by the city to create murals in areas throughout Boston. One of its most wholesome and inviting pieces is “Mother Earth.” Painted on the side of a nondescript building in Roxbury, the mural depicts a web of vines and flowers that are simple, but pretty. What really draws the eye in this mural are the two maternal faces that adorn the right side. One looks sage and knowing while the other looks kind and as if she is half-smiling at whatever theoretically lies beyond the mural on the left.

Related: Boston’s Best Art Walks 

‘Frederick Douglass’ By The Mayor’s Mural Crew 
Corner of Hammond St. and Tremont St.
Roxbury, MA 02119
(617) 635-3245 
www.publicartboston.com  

Given that the city has its very own mural crew, it is not surprising that some of the best murals in Boston are by the same group, though the artists are diverse and often change. The Mayor’s Mural Crew brings to life one of the most important social reformers of the 19th century. The intelligence of Frederick Douglass was a cutting blow to the notion that his race was inferior and he was not afraid to use it. In this mural, his wise face rises above the drab street below and is coupled with one of his most powerful quotes, “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist…”

‘The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail’ By Edwin Austin Abbey (Photo from BPL.org)

‘The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail’ By Edwin Austin Abbey (Photo from BPL.org)

‘The Quest and Achievement of the Holy Grail’ By Edwin Austin Abbey 
Boston Public Library
700 Boylston St. 
Boston, MA 02116 
(617) 536-5400 
www.bpl.org  

The quest for the Holy Grail is a well-known legend that Edwin Abbey outlines in 15 murals installed on the walls of the Book Delivery Room at the Boston Public Library. The mural contains many figures carefully painted to tell the tale from whence they sprang. An amalgamation of the tales of the Christian Bible and the tales of the Knights of the Round Table, people who come to appreciate this work of art will know the names, if not the faces, of many of these individuals. The library is a public institution, so visiting any of the art in the building is free of charge, but this building is something of a museum in many respects, so proceed with care.   

“The Potluck” By David Fichter 
Harvest Co-operative Supermarket
580 Massachusetts Ave. 
Cambridge, MA 02139 
(617) 661-1580 
www.harvestcoop.com  

Not only is this mural painted on a community organized and run supermarket, but its focus is the community in which is painted. “The Potluck” depicts a large potluck dinner attended by the members of the Area 4 neighborhood in Cambridge. Local children and other volunteers helped the artist paint this mural that captures all of the diversity that makes up this supportive neighborhood. It also features food, which this store is all about producing and selling locally.

Related: Best Places for Glass Art in Boston

Shelly Barclay is a professional freelance writer and amateur author. She writes on a variety of topics from food to mysteries. She loves to share the culture and rich history of her birthplace and home, Boston, with the rest of the world. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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