America's Eye: Irish Paintings from the
collection of Brian P. Burns
January 26 through May 19, 1996
The Boston College Museum of Art will mounted the exhibition
America's Eye: Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns
from January 26 through May 19, 1996. America's Eye demonstrates
the powerful and evolving role of the diaspora in Ireland and America.
Brian P. Burns's leadership role in collecting and preserving Ireland's
cultural heritage reverses older patterns of discrimination that denied
his nineteenth-century ancestors the opportunities of his generation.
The trajectory of emigrants who initially moved from impoverished
lives in their homeland to economic and social marginalization in
their adopted nation culminates in Mr. Burn's success in America and
his expression of social and cultural responsibility toward Ireland.
America's Eye, and the publication of an exhibition catalogue,
including a collection of interdisciplinary essays in the field of
Irish Studies, attest to the way in which the visual arts, too often
viewed as irrelevant to the lives of ordinary Irish men and women,
can help uncover their history.
Comprising works from approximately 35 artists, including
Jack B. Yeats, Walter Chetwood-Aiken, William Orpen, Walter Osborne,
and Sean Keating, the exhibition displays about 50 paintings. Rather
than enter into the current debate that locates the source of the
nation's post-Famine visual art either in nationalism or in international
Modernism, the curators of this exhibition propose a less politicized
definition. The works in this collection, produced in the nineteenth
and the first half of the twentieth centuries, are designated Irish
for a variety of reasons. Most frequently their creators were Irish-born,
but some, Erskine Nichol or H. Robertson Craig, for example, were
foreign-born painters who produced considerable work in Ireland. The
paintings generally depict Irish subjects -- landscapes, individual
or group portraits, interiors, genre scenes, still lifes -- but several
Irish artists like Frank O'Meara, Roderic O'Conor, and John Lavery,
chose settings in Paris, Brittany, Antwerp, or even Tangiers. The
Irish art in America's Eye, then, is a loosely defined entity created
by men and women who were either born in or produced a significant
body of work in Ireland.