BOSTON — "All of Boston is divided into two parts, one of which follows science and the other, Mrs. Jack Gardner," a local pundit quipped presciently in 1875, years before Isabella Stewart Gardner was to build the palazzo-museum that would make her legendary here.

A new exhibition, "The Making of the Museum," which opened Tuesday (Apr. 22) and runs through Aug. 21, explores how she built the collection and the museum while illuminating the mystery and innuendo cloaking Gardner’s life. For the first time, her travel diaries, photographs and sketches — as well as never-exhibited sketches by John Singer Sargent, who was one of her intimates — will be shown as part of the museum’s centennial celebration. Included are Gardner’s ecstatic notations about key works, particularly Titian’s Europa. "I am breathless about the ‘Europa’!" she writes. "Every inch of paint in the picture seems full of joy."

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