Thomas McKeller

Back in March when Dad had a birthday, I gifted him a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for an exhibit about Thomas McKeller and John Singer Sargent called Boston’s Apollo.

When the pandemic shut everything down right after Dad’s early March birthday, I put the exhibit out of my mind, accepting that the outing would be one of COVID’s victim’s. But a week or so ago I got an email from the museum saying they had extended the exhibit, and that they had many safety precautions in place including timed entry.

Dad was game, so he came by Sunday morning and we rode together, masks on, windows down (chilly!) and saw some beautiful art and learned about an interesting story.

It was almost like normal.

Thomas McKeller became painter John Singer Sargent’s primary model while in America. Sargent used McKeller’s as a model for the Sargent’s Rotunda Project at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.

McKeller had escaped Jim Crow south, and was an elevator operator in a Boston hotel when they met. The work Sargent did with McKellar’s help is beautiful, but of course, whitewashed. So seeing the work as McKeller and not McKeller turned into a white Apollo was lovely.


Here’s a link to the exhibit’s opening wall label.

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