Contact: Nancy Netzer, Director
(617) 552-8587 (media contact)
Arts Line: (617) 552-8100 (public contact)
Land as an icon of the Irish Nation pervades
Irish visual culture from the Middle Ages to the present
BOSTON COLLEGE McMULLEN MUSEUM OF ART TO
HOST EXCLUSIVE EXHIBITION: Éire/Land February 2 - May 19,
CHESTNUT HILL, MA (12-16-02) - The McMullen
Museum of Art at Boston College hosts an exclusive exhibition, Éire/Land,
presenting various modes of depicting the Irish landscape as an
icon of national identity from medieval manuscripts to contemporary
works in various media. The exhibition on display from February
2 to May 19, 2003 comprises about 100 outstanding works of
art from the medieval to the contemporary period. They include illuminated
manuscripts, archaeological artifacts, early illuminated maps and
examples of the nation's finest landscape paintings, which represent
the best works of their kinds from Ireland's major galleries (National
Gallery of Ireland, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in Dublin, Crawford
Art Gallery in Cork), the British Library, and the most significant
private collections of Irish art.
According to exhibition organizers, from its
earliest history, Ireland has been contested land, claimed by waves
of invaders each attempting to possess and inscribe its identity
on the island territory. Cultural artifacts that reveal this turbulent
past are, they note, central to any historical exploration of Ireland.
Éire/Land will be the first major exhibition
of works of art to examine this theme over the past seven centuries.
"Through this exhibition, the McMullen Museum
builds on its success as a leading proponent of Irish art, which
until recently was largely excluded from the canon of art historical
scholarship in North America," said McMullen Museum Director and
Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer.
The works selected exemplify various ways
in which the idea of land, a symbol of Irish identity, has pervaded
Irish visual culture. They include the North American debut of the
first illustrated (early 13th c.) manuscript of Gerald of Wales
(Giraldus Cambrensis), Topography of Ireland (Topographia Hibernica)
from the British Library, in addition to some of the finest works including
paintings and several sketchbooks from a private collection by
Jack Butler Yeats, Ireland's most celebrated painter.
The exhibition also features paintings by
Thomas Roberts, George Barret, James Arthur O'Connor, Nathaniel
Hone, Paul Henry, and Seán Keating, and works in a variety
of media by well-known contemporary artists including many associated
with the Ballinglen Artists Fellowship in county Mayo.
[MEDIA NOTE: Color images from the exhibition
are available upon request from the McMullen Museum: (617) 552-8587.
A complete list of works also is available.]
This interdisciplinary project addresses Irish
visual culture in its fullest cultural and political settings, and
draws on original research by the distinguished faculty members
in Boston College's renowned Irish Studies Program, considered the
most comprehensive in North America, as well as other prominent
international scholars. Accompanying catalogue essays and developed
wall texts relate objects to new scholarship in a variety of disciplines.
As a result, visitors will respond to visual representations of
Ireland's land in a historically informed context. Principal curator
Alston Conley selected the works with BC co-curators Pamela Berger,
Lisabeth Buchelt, Vera Kreilkamp, Katherine Nahum, and Nancy Netzer.
To commemorate the opening of the exhibition,
a black-tie event for invited guests including McMullen Museum
patrons and special guests will be held on Saturday, February
1, 2003. The event will be hosted by Boston College President William
P. Leahy, S.J., BC Board of Trustees Chair John M. Connors, Jr.,
(chairman and CEO of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc.),
and McMullen Museum Director Nancy Netzer. The evening will include
a lecture by Dr. Síghle Bhreathnach-Lynch, curator of Irish
Art at the National Gallery of Ireland. His Excellency Noel Fahey,
Ambassador of Ireland to the United States, will officially open
On Sunday, February 2, an opening event will
be held from noon to 5 p.m. for Friends of the McMullen Museum,
Boston College students, faculty, staff, alumni and their families,
and Newton residents. Bhreathnach-Lynch will lecture at 2 p.m.
The exhibition is divided into four sections:
Mapping, Digging, Possessing, and Responding Today.
Mapping: In the footsteps of Giraldus Cambrensis
The mapping of Ireland permitted both outsiders
and Irish colonists to define and control the island's territory.
From medieval topographical treatises to the nineteenth-century
Ordnance Survey, which imposed English place names on a bilingual
country, as the exhibition demonstrates, maps of Ireland have had
profound social and political effects. This section of the exhibition
explores changing images of Ireland's topography, beginning with
the earliest illustrated manuscript of Gerald of Wales' Topographia
Hibernica (c. 1210) from the British Library, shown in its North
American debut. This section also examines several of the finest
decorated maps and manuscripts from the British Library and Boston
College's Irish Collection in the University's Burns Library of
Rare Books and Special Collections.
Digging: Archeology and the Situating of
This section shows how nineteenth-century
scholars, archeologists, and cultural nationalists excavated the
land for ancient objects to support their claim that Ireland was
among the great ancient and medieval civilizations of Europe. The
section presents medieval brooches, as well as nineteenth-century
electrotype replicas of the major excavated early medieval icons
of the Irish nation, the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch. It
demonstrates how such excavated artifacts, widely disseminated through
replicas, supplied cultural nationalists with evidence that Ireland no
less than Greece was a cradle of western civilization. It
also explores how George Petrie's paintings of the mid-ninetheenth
century recording medieval sites contributed to this creation of
an Irish historical identity, and demonstrated a continuity of Ireland's
culture over the centuries.
Possessing: Irish Landscapes 1750-1950
This section presents major examples of Irish
landscape painting from Irish national museums and American private
collectors. Visitors will learn how eighteenth-, nineteenth- and
early twentieth-century Irish artists expressed a growing cultural
nationalism and sense of the distinctness of the Irish landscape.
The section begins with important eighteenth-century works by Thomas
Roberts, George Barret, and Jonathan Fisher. Two early nineteenth-century
paintings by James Arthur O'Connor demonstrate how representations
of the Irish landscape reflected the political realities of colonization,
as Irish estate lands were increasingly shaped and organized by
the English and Continental park ideals. Later paintings by William
McEvoy, Nathaniel Hone, and George William Russell [A. E.] are examined
to illustrate how nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Irish
painters, following English, American, and European precedents,
romanticized the landscape and created an Irish sublime.
The exhibition then presents a selection of
the finest paintings by Ireland's most celebrated painter, Jack
Butler Yeats. In addition, virtually unknown examples of Yeats's
sketchbooks offer visitors an intimate experience of the artist's
responses to the Irish landscape. A computer station provides visitors
with images of additional pages from the sketchbooks. Yeats's work
is displayed alongside paintings by Paul Henry to illustrate how,
in a period of cultural revival, late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century
artists iconicized the landscape of the remote, rural western areas
of the island.
The final paintings in the section have been
chosen to reflect post-independence Ireland's changing vision of
the land. Seán Keating's iconic paintings reveal a new nation's
reappropriation and modernization of its landscape. A 1945 naïve
work by Gerard Dillon demonstrates how the past centuries of Irish
visual imagery shaped later artists' experience of the landscape.
Responding Today: Contemporary Interpretations
of the West
The concluding section explores how contemporary
artists register both change and continuity in their visual responses
to the Irish landscape. This section presents works by both Irish
and American artists, including a group of artists associated with
the Ballinglen Artists Fellowship in county Mayo. The installation
leads viewers from the edge of the sea towards fields dotted with
farmhouses, small villages, and the remains of deserted cottages,
abandoned big houses, medieval abbeys and Neolithic standing stones.
Realist depictions by Eric Aho, Peter Brooke, Jane Goldman, and
Susan Shatter are juxtaposed with expressionist images by Gwen O'Dowd,
Anne Neely, Donald Teskey, and David Brewster and abstract images
by Jane Proctor. Paintings focused on the formalist language are
compared to works employing postmodern content, including Dorothy
Cross's video Endarken and Kathy Herbert's installation pieces.
The connection between land and memory is
further explored through a model and proposal drawings of architect
Brian Tolle's Irish Hunger Memorial for Battery Park City in New
York, for which turf and a model of an actual famine cottage were
shipped from Ireland. This concluding section demonstrates that
the search for meaning in the Irish landscape continues to inspire
both traditional and strikingly innovative works of art.
The exhibition is organized by Boston College's
McMullen Museum of Art, Center for Irish Programs, Irish Studies.
The project has been underwritten by Boston College with an indemnity
from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities, with additional
support from sponsors: patrons of the McMullen Museum, and benefactors:
Cynthia Livingston and the Cultural Relations Committee of Ireland.
Transport provided by Aer Lingus.
The accompanying 250-page exhibition catalogue
is a major scholarly contribution to the study of Irish visual art
and to the interdisciplinary field of Irish Studies. Published by
the McMullen Museum and distributed by the Boston College Bookstore
and the University of Chicago Press, it features 16 original essays
and color illustrations of most of the works, with remaining works
shown in black and white. The catalogue is edited by Professor Vera
Kreilkamp, editor of the journal Éire-Ireland and a faculty
member in BC's Irish Studies Program, and contributors include American,
English, and Irish scholars from a range of academic disciplines including
more than a dozen Boston College faculty members. The catalogue
and exhibition are dedicated to the late Boston College Professor
Adele Dalsimer, co-founder and former co-director of the University's
Irish Studies Program.
[For more details on the catalogue and contributors,
please call the McMullen Museum at (617) 552-8587.]
McMullen Museum Tours and Programs
The McMullen Museum is renowned for organizing
interdisciplinary exhibitions that ask new questions and break new
ground in the display and scholarship of the works on view. Organizers
estimate that some 75,000 to 100,000 visitors will take part in
this exhibition and the accompanying public programs, which will
include concerts, films and a lecture series. [See next page for
list of programs.] Gallery tours of the exhibition will be given
on Fridays at 12:30 p.m. Group tours may be arranged upon request,
by calling (617) 552-8587.
McMullen Museum representatives and faculty
members in BC's Lynch School of Education will work with local teachers
to prepare curricula for class visits to the exhibition, and the
museum docents will offer free guided tours to schools, senior citizens'
groups, and arts clubs in greater Boston. Programs also will be
planned for Irish-American cultural organizations.
McMullen Museum Hours
Admission to the McMullen Museum is free;
it is handicapped accessible and open to the public. The Museum
is located in Devlin Hall on the Chestnut Hill campus of Boston
College, 140 Commonwealth Avenue. During this exhibition, McMullen
Museum hours are as follows: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4
p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The McMullen Museum
is closed on public holidays, Easter, and Good Friday. For directions,
parking and additional information, call the Arts Line at (617)
552-8100, or visit the web site at www.bc.edu/artmuseum.
Éire/Land Public Programs
For more information about accompanying programs which
are open to the public, free of charge see http://www.bc.edu/artmuseum,
or call 617-552-8100. Gallery tours of the exhibition will be given
on Fridays at 12:30 p.m. Free group tours will be arranged by request;
please call (617) 552-8587.
January 22, Burns Library, 4 p.m.
"An Ancient Light: Megalithic, Celtic, and Early Christian Monuments
Pamela Berger, BC Professor of Fine Arts; photos by Stephen Vedder,
BC Media Technology Services
February 5, Devlin Hall, 4:30 p.m.
"Making and Remaking the Irish Landscape in the Early Middle Ages:
Ireland in its European Context," Robin Fleming, BC Professor
February 24, Devlin Hall, 6:30 p.m.
"Landscapes of Loss: John Ford, The Quiet Man and Irish America,"
Luke Gibbons, Professor of English, University of Notre Dame
March 19, Devlin Hall, 4:30 p.m.
"The Land for the People: Post-Famine Images of Eviction," L.
Perry Curtis, Professor Emeritus, Brown University
April 2, Devlin Hall, 4:30 p.m.
"Aborigines of Connaught," Katherine O'Donnell, University College,
April 16, Devlin Hall, 5 p.m.
"Land and Sovereignty in Ireland," BC Professor Richard Kearney,
Charles Seelig Chair in Philosophy
April 23, Devlin Hall, 5 p.m.
"Remembrance and Imagination: Historical and Literary Representations
of Ireland," Joep Leerssen, Chair of Modern European Literature,
University of Amsterdam
March 16, Gasson Hall, 2 p.m.
Songs of the Nation, Mick Maloney, Professor, Villanova University
March 21, Gasson Hall, 7 p.m.
Between Worlds? Mícheal Ó Súilleabháin,
Director, Irish World Music Center, University of Limerick
April 6, Gasson Hall, 2 p.m.
Gaelic Roots, BC Irish Studies Music Programs Director Séamus
Connolly and Friends
February 10, Gasson Hall, 6:30 p.m.
Máirtín Ó Direáin, a film about the
Aran Island poet introduced by BC Associate Professor Philip O'Leary,
Irish Studies Program
April 7, Devlin Hall, 6:30 p.m.
The Last Story Teller, Filmmaker Desmond Bell introduces his award-winning
April 14, Devlin Hall, 6:30 p.m.
Adrift, Filmmaker and BC alumnus Tom Curran introduces his award-winning
Devlin Hall 108
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
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