BOSTON COLLEGE McMULLEN MUSEUM EXHIBITION
PRESENTS PUBLIC DEBUT:
First Hand: Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection
September 5 through December 13, 2009
Largest private collection, “national
treasure” enhances understanding
of nation’s conflicted past
Contact: (not for publication)
HILL, MA (7-09) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College presents
to the public for the first time drawings by Joseph Becker and his colleagues,
nineteenth-century artists who worked as artist-reporters (Special Artists)
for Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.
On view from September 5 through December 13, 2009, First Hand:
Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection showcases the
largest private collection of Civil War era drawings, which have never
been exhibited. It includes landmark drawings by some of the era’s
most notable artists, including Edwin Forbes and Henri Lovie.
According to the exhibition curators, Boston College Fine Arts Department
faculty members Judith Bookbinder and Sheila Gallagher, the Becker Collection
is a national treasure that adds significantly to our understanding
of the nation’s conflicted past, and the exhibition presents an
untapped historical resource.
The Special Artists drew and sent back for publication images of the
Civil War, construction of the railroads, laying of the transatlantic
cable, Chinese immigrants in the West, Indian wars, Great Chicago Fire,
and many other news stories in late nineteenth-century America. These
firsthand drawings document key developments in American history as
the nation struggled to establish its identity. At a time when photography
could depict only staged or still moments, these drawings recorded live-action
historical events that then were used as visual documentation in newspapers.
“The McMullen is pleased to present to the public for the first
time highlights from the Becker Collection, an extensive archive of
eyewitness drawings documenting the Civil War. These drawings, by Special
Artists embedded with the Union armies, are unique primary sources,
which tell the story of the Civil War as never before,” says McMullen
Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “Long
thought to have been lost, these drawings testify to the significant
role artists played in the development of American art and journalism.”
[MEDIA NOTE: Jpg images available upon request from the Museum:
please call Mary Curran at 617.552.4676 or email her at email@example.com.
A slideshow of images and more exhibition details are available at the
exhibition's web page.]
Public Opening Celebration: Sunday, September
September 6, the public is invited to join BC community members at a
free opening celebration at the Museum at 7:30 p.m. [Please call 617.552.8587
for information.] A black-tie opening for invited guests will be held the following
First Hand: Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection
only other exhibition of firsthand Civil War era drawings was at the
National Gallery in 1961 to mark the centennial of the beginning of
the Civil War. According to the organizers of the current exhibition, First
Hand: Civil War Era Drawings from the Becker Collection is timed
to coordinate with the sesquicentennial of the beginning of the Civil
War. After its debut at the McMullen Museum, sections will be displayed
at other venues in 2010 and 2011 (more below). It departs significantly
from the National Gallery exhibition, by presenting these drawings
not just as historical documents but also as works of art.
The McMullen Museum exhibition is a part of a larger project led by
the curators—who are co-directors of the Becker Collection—to
introduce the collection of approximately 650 works to the scholarly
community as an archive and academic resource. The collection’s
Web site (http://idesweb.bc.edu/becker/)
features high-resolution digital images of each of the works in addition
to information about the collection, the artists’ biographies,
and related resources.
The exhibition focuses on approximately 125 drawings by more than 14
Special Artists, supplemented by artifacts, prints, photographs, and
books from the Civil War. Installation by McMullen Museum exhibition
designer Diana Larsen and graphic designer John McCoy. Exhibition labels
and wall texts written by the curators.
The Civil War in Four Minutes: A
Section 1: Hand/Eye: Drawing as Information/Drawing as
Art: Reveals the mark-making process and presents these
documentary drawings as works of art.
Section 2: In the Midst of Battle: Brief
biographical profile of the Special Artists and their respective representative
drawings to illustrate the scope of the war and their role.
Section 3: Time Out from Battle: Drawings
and artifacts arranged thematically to highlight non-combat situations
depicted by the Special Artists.
Section 4: From Drawing to Newspaper Illustration: Comparisons
with contemporary photographs and published engravings in Frank
Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper highlight how information
about the war was conveyed and altered in these mediae.
Section 5: Postwar News Stories: Drawings
of major news stories covered after 1865.
Section 6: New Discoveries: Highlights
the work of BC undergraduates done in a Civil War drawings course
to discover the identities of the unknown artists who made drawings
in the collection.
Digital Archive: In a nearby study lounge,
visitors will have online access to the complete Becker Collection
and additional research resources through its Web site, which acts
as an interactive teaching tool. A goal is to create a research lab
online for scholars, educators, and students.
Accompanying Exhibition Catalogue and Programming
College contributors to the accompanying scholarly catalogue are Judith
Bookbinder, Instructor of Art History; Sheila Gallagher, Associate
Professor of Fine Arts; James O’Toole, Professor of History
and Charles I. Clough Chair in History; James Wallace, Associate Professor
of English; and Nirmal Trivedi, Ph.D. in English.
Other contributors are Vincent Cannato, Associate Professor of History,
University of Massachusetts, Boston; Robert Emlen, University Curator,
Brown University; Harry Katz, formerly Curator of Prints and Drawings,
Library of Congress; Lucia Knoles, Professor of English, Assumption
College; and Natasha Seaman, Assistant Professor of Art History, Rhode
Accompanying programming will include public lectures, a concert of
Civil War era music, and poetry readings.
Exhibition Sponsors/Other Venues
exhibition and catalogue have been underwritten by Boston College with
major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum. Additional support
has been provided by the Military Historical Society of Massachusetts
and Tracy Shupp.
exhibition will be shown in its entirety only at the McMullen Museum.
A section will be shown at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish,
NH, in spring 2010, and at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in 2011.
McMullen Museum of Art
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. It serves as a dynamic educational resource for all of
New England as well as the national and international community. The
Museum mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from
all periods and cultures in the history of art. In keeping with the
University’s central teaching mission, the Museum’s
exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public
programs. The McMullen Museum was named in 1996 by the late Boston
College benefactor, trustee, and art collector John J. McMullen and
his wife Jacqueline McMullen.
McMullen Museum Hours and Tours
is free; handicapped accessible and open to the public. Located in Devlin
Hall on BC’s Chestnut Hill campus, 140 Commonwealth Avenue. Hours
during this exhibition: Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. Extended hours: Friday,
September 25: 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and 27:
9 a.m. –5 p.m. The Museum will be closed on the following dates: Monday,
September 7; Monday, October 12; Thursday, November 26; Friday, November 27. On-campus
parking will be unavailable on the following Saturdays: September
5, September 12, September 26, October 3, October 17, October 31, November
21. Free group tours: Sundays at 12:30 p.m., beginning September
20. Tours also may be arranged upon request by calling 617.552.8587. For directions,
parking and information on public programs, visit www.bc.edu/artmuseum or