Changed Land, Changed Views

Changed Land, Changed Views

Irish landscape is focus of upcoming McMullen Museum exhibition

By Rosanne Pellegrini
Staff Writer

The Irish landscape and its role as an icon of national identity throughout Irish history is the subject of a new exhibition opening at Boston College's McMullen Museum of Art this Sunday.

"Farewell to Mayo," by Jack Butler Yeats, will be among the works featured in "Éire/Land," which opens this weekend at the McMullen Museum of Art.
"Éire/Land," comprising about 100 outstanding works of art from the medieval to the contemporary period, will be on display at the McMullen from Feb. 2 to May 19. The exclusive exhibition includes illuminated manuscripts, archaeological artifacts, early illuminated maps and examples of the nation's finest landscape paintings, culled from such major venues as the National Gallery of Ireland, Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in Dublin, the British Library and the most significant private collections of Irish art.
Boston College students, faculty, staff, alumni and their families, as well as area residents, are invited to an opening reception at the museum on Sunday from noon to 5 p.m., which will include a 2 p.m. lecture by Síghle Bhreathnach-Lynch, curator of Irish Art at the National Gallery of Ireland.

The works selected exemplify various ways in which the idea of land, a symbol of Irish identity, has pervaded Irish visual culture, say exhibition organizers. From its earliest history, they say, Ireland has been 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 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, according to the organizers.

"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 Prof. Nancy Netzer (Fine Arts).

Among the artists featured in "Éire/Land" are Jack Butler Yeats, Ireland's most celebrated painter, as well as Thomas Roberts, George Barret, James Arthur O'Connor, Nathaniel Hone, Paul Henry, and Seán Keating. Works in a variety of media by well-known contemporary artists also will be on display. The earliest illustrated manuscript of Gerald of Wales' Topographia Hibernica, dating from the 13th century, will be shown for the first time in North America.

In addition, BC Irish Studies Program faculty members and other prominent international scholars provide cultural, social and historical contexts through essays in the exhibition catalogue, as well as in text descriptions accompanying the displays.

Co-organizers with the museum for "Éire/Land" are the Center for Irish Programs and the Irish Studies Program.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first, "Mapping," explores changing images of Ireland's topography, encompassing medieval topographical treatises and the 19th-century Ordnance Survey, which imposed English place names on a bilingual country. "Digging" shows how 19th-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.

"Possessing" presents major examples of Irish landscape painting from 1750-1950 that express a growing cultural nationalism and sense of the distinctness of the Irish landscape. The final section, "Responding Today," shows how contemporary artists register both change and continuity in their visual responses to the Irish landscape.

The accompanying 250-page exhibition catalogue features 16 original essays and color illustrations of most of the works. Irish Studies plans to use the catalogue as the primary textbook for a new interdisciplinary course on the landscape in Irish history and culture being offered in conjunction with the exhibition.

The exhibition and catalogue are dedicated to the late Adele Dalsimer, co-founder of the Irish Studies Program.

A series of public events during the semester will further explore themes and ideas presented in "Éire/Land." These include concerts by respected Irish musician-scholars Mick Moloney, Mícheal Ó Súilleabháin and Irish Studies Music Programs Director Seamus Connolly, discussions with award-winning documentary filmmakers Desmond Bell and Tom Curran, and lectures by BC and visiting faculty members.
McMullen Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the week, and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Gallery tours of the exhibition will be given on Fridays at 12:30 p.m.

For more information on the exhibition and on related events, see the museum World Wide Web site at or call ext.2-8100.


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