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BPL - Free Tours - Art and Architecture - at Boston Public Library

Free Art and Architecture Tours Offered at Boston Public Library

Featured works include Sargent, Chavannes, and Abbey Murals

During the holidays, the Boston Public Library is offering free tours of the McKim Building, including a set of tours on First Night.

The Boston Public Library welcomes visitors to explore the treasures inside its McKim Building at the Central Library in Copley Square this holiday season and embark upon a free art and architecture tour detailing the library's rich history. 

The free tours last about an hour and are led by volunteer guides. No appointment is necessary for groups smaller than eight people.

The McKim Building is known Boston's "palace for the people," and stands as one of the City's iconic landmarks, showcasing the architecture of Charles Follen McKim and housing works by famed sculptors and painters.

Lobby of McKim Build (Dartmouth St entrance)

2:30 pm
Tue / Thu
6:00 pm
Wed / Fri / Sat 
11:00 am
2:00 pm

First Night
As part of the city's First Night celebrations on Tuesday, December 31, 30-minute tours will begin every 15 minutes in the McKim lobby between 1 and 5 p.m., with the final tour departing at 4:30 p.m. To learn more, or to make a private tour reservation, please visit www.bpl.org/tours. Groups of eight or more must make a reservation for a private tour.

McKim Building BPL
Art Works and Galleries

The works of notable American and European designers and artists such as Rafael Guastavino, Frederick MacMonnies, Daniel Chester French, and Louis Saint-Gaudens are featured within the library's entrance hall, courtyard, vestibule, and main staircase. Exquisite murals adorn the walls of the Abbey Room and Chavannes and Sargent galleries:

Abbey Room:

The Quest of the Holy Grail mural cycle by American artist Edwin Austin Abbey graces the walls of the Abbey Room on the second floor. The work falls into a series of 15 panels featuring 150 life-sized figures illustrating the Arthurian legend. The room also features a beautiful fireplace of French rouge antique marble, dark oak wainscoting, and a beamed ceiling modeled after that of the library in the Doge's Palace in Venice.
Chavannes Gallery:

Painted by the renowned French artist Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, the murals decorate the walls of the McKim Building's grand staircase and second floor gallery. The central mural depicts The Muses of Inspiration Welcoming the Spirit of Light. Eight stairway murals representing the main disciplines of poetry, philosophy, and science complete this allegorical cycle.

Sargent Gallery:

John Singer Sargent chose the development of world religions as his theme for this ambitious mural cycle. The artist considered this effort to be his most important work. Distinctly different from his better-known portraits of distinguished Americans and Europeans and his delicate landscapes, Sargent followed the style of Italian Renaissance frescos by incorporating architectural elements of the building into the work.


Boston Public Library has a Central Library, twenty-four branches, a literacy center, map center, business library, and a website filled with digital content and services. Established in 1848, the Boston Public Library has pioneered public library service in America. It was the first publicly supported municipal library in America, the first public library to lend books, the first to have a branch library, and the first to have a children's room.

Each year, the Boston Public Library hosts thousands of programs and serves millions of people. All of its programs and exhibitions are free and open to the public. At the Boston Public Library, books are just the beginning. To learn more, visit www.bpl.org.

Posted: December 17, 2013     Nancy J Conrad

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