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Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “Dance at Bougival” is on the cover of the Museum of Fine Arts’s highlights handbook for a simple reason: It’s one of the museum’s most beloved works.

It’s also one of Renoir’s greatest. Six feet high and more than 3 feet wide, it shows a handsome couple dressed in the latest summer fashions, dancing at an open-air cafe on the outskirts of Paris. The chalky pink dress of the woman — who was modeled by the trapeze artist and painter Suzanne Valadon — fans out around her feet as she twirls. The man, modeled by Renoir’s friend Paul Auguste Llhote, leans in amorously. (Llhote was a well-known seducer).

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Officials from the Museum of Fine Arts are investigating after they discovered spray painted images of Homer Simpson and other graffiti on the exterior walls of the building, as well as on the base of the statue that greets visitors at the main entrance.

A groundskeeper who asked not to be identified said she was “bummed” when she walked around the art museum on Friday morning and found the graffiti, which included phrases like “tell the truth” and Homer Simpson’s face, on the outside of the Japanese Garden, the front and back entrance to the gallery, as well as on the foundation of a prominent statue, called “Appeal to the Great Spirit,” which depicts a Native American riding atop a horse that welcomes guests coming in from Huntington Avenue. The actual statue was not damaged.

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A gifted, restless, in many ways likable artist, Jamie Wyeth is the subject of a retrospective — his first in more than 30 years — at the Museum of Fine Arts. The show, which was curated by Elliot Bostwick Davis, the museum’s chair of the Art of the Americas, is full of incidental fascinations. But is it a body of work worthy of such lavish treatment in one of the world’s great museums?

I’m scratching my head. Wyeth, who has just turned 68, can paint. He can draw. He has lived an interesting and impressive life. But what’s missing from this show, which covers six decades and is made up of more than 100 oils, watercolors, drawings, and even a couple of humorous tableaux vivant, is a sense that it all adds up to something original — something that goes beyond the frisson of family gossip, the sentimentality of a compelling life story, or the romance of a storied place.

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The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston announced Monday that it has acquired a famous portrait of President John F. Kennedy.

The Kennedy family asked Jamie Wyeth to paint the portrait in 1967, after JFK was assassinated.

The then 20-year-old fledgling artist agreed to make an unofficial portrait that he would keep if the family didn’t approve of the finished work.

MFA Art of the Americas curator Elliot Bostwick Davis said the artist received mixed reviews.

“Robert Kennedy didn’t care for it — he found it was too painful a reminder of his brother,” Bostwick Davis explained, “whereas Jacqueline Kennedy felt it was a very striking and stirring likeness of her husband. As a result it remained in the artist’s own collection, and hence has come to the museum and come to the public.”

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Eight Nigerian artifacts that were probably stolen decades ago and illegally sent to the United States have been returned to the West African country by the Museum of Fine Arts, according to museum officials, who said Nigerian authorities planned to announce the transfer on Thursday.

The decision to return the artworks, including a 2,000-year-old terra-cotta head, was the culmination of an 18-month pursuit through dusty records and old gallery brochures, untangling an art-world mystery that spanned several continents. Along the way, the MFA discovered that one item, a brass altar figure, had probably been stolen from the royal palace in Benin City as recently as the 1970s.

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Wednesday, 25 June 2014 12:17

Grants Bring More Public Art to Boston

Earlier this year, the Institute of Contemporary Art got disappointing news: It would no longer be in charge of painting the massive Dewey Square wall mural, at the head of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway. The job would instead go to the more mainstream Museum of Fine Arts.

Jill Medvedow, ICA director, was not pleased. “Really?” she said. “It’s walking distance to the ICA.”

Other Greenway changes, perhaps more universally welcomed, are in the works. On Wednesday the nonprofit funder ArtPlace will announce a $250,000 public art grant for the Greenway, a 15-acre network of parks in downtown Boston. That follows by just a few days the announcement of plans for a $1 million public art expansion that will include the installation next year of a huge, billowing fabric work meant to hover over the park, by Brookline-based artist Janet Echelman. The Greenway is even hiring its own art curator.

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This summer the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston will host Jamie Wyeth's first career retrospective.
Jamie Wyeth (b. 1946) -- born into one of the strongest family of artists in history with Andrew Wyeth (1917-2000) as his father and illustrator great N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945) as his grandfather -- has always led a quieter, more behind-the-scenes life as a painter. Now, as he is a mere two years away from 70, he is reflecting on almost six decades of artistic production and allowing one of the top museums in the country to organize his first career retrospective. The Museum of Fine Arts Boston is working busily to finish this highly anticipated exhibition -- titled "Jamie Wyeth," on view from July 16 through December 28, 2014 -- which will include approximately 100 paintings, works on paper, illustrations, and assemblages in a variety of individual and combined media.

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The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has returned 14 Maine Shaker items to the United Society of Shakers at Sabbathday Lake.

The items have historic significance to the Sabbathday Lake Shakers and the former Alfred community where they were used.

A red kilo dairy tub used by Sister Aurelia Mace has her name etched on the bottom, and experts verified Sister Deborah Fuller’s Native American basket.

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The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) will celebrate the Red Sox’s third World Series Championship in a decade by exhibiting Norman Rockwell’s “The Rookie (The Red Sox Locker Room)” before it heads to auction at Christie’s in New York on May 22. The museum will display the work for six days only, from April 29 through May 4.

Created in 1957, the painting depicts the Red Sox locker room during spring training in Sarasota, Florida. The work, which appeared on the cover of the March 2, 1957 “Saturday Evening Post,” has appeared on display at the MFA in 2005 and 2008, following the Red Sox’s World Series wins.

Malcolm Rogers, the Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA, said, “We are proud to celebrate our hometown team and Red Sox Nation by displaying a quintessential painting from one of New England and America’s most beloved artists, Norman Rockwell. Neighbors across the Fenway for over 100 years, the histories of the Red Sox and the MFA are inextricably linked.”

Rockwell, who lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, for the last 25 years of his life, is best known for his archetypical portrayals of American life as well as his cover illustrations for the “Saturday Evening Post.”

“The Rookie (The Red Sox Locker Room),” which is being offered by an anonymous owner, is expected to fetch between $20 million and $30 million.

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The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is currently hosting the exhibition “John Singer Sargent: The Watercolors.” During the late 1800s, John Singer Sargent gained recognition for his technically masterful portraits that revealed the personality and individuality of his sitters. As the 20th century approached, Sargent ventured into watercolors, eventually mastering the medium and creating some of the most celebrated works in his oeuvre.

“John Singer Sargent: The Watercolors” presents 100 watercolors including early 20th-century scenes of landscape, labor and leisure. The works on view are from two of the most significant collections of Sargent’s watercolors -- holdings from the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. This exhibition marks the first time in history that the two collections have been on view together.

The watercolors featured in the show were created during the artist’s trips through the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. They are organized geographically and subjects include the people of the Bedouin community, Venetian architecture, villa gardens, marble quarries, and gondoliers at work.

“John Singer Sargent: The Watercolors” will remain on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston through May 26, 2014. The exhibition was previously on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Brooklyn Museum.

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