Irish Art Featured In New Exhibition

The Boston College Museum of Art will celebrate Ireland's contribution to visual art in its forthcoming exhibition, "America's Eye: Irish Paintings from the Collection of Brian P. Burns," which will begin Jan. 26. Featuring some 50 works of art by 33 artists, the exhibition will be on display through May 19.

The collection is on loan from Brian P. Burns, the founder and principal benefactor of the John J. Burns Library, which was named in honor of his father and houses several Irish historical and cultural collections. The exhibition includes seven works by Jack B. Yeats, Ireland's most celebrated 20th-century artist, as well as works by James Brenan, James Hore and Kathleen Fox. All pieces were produced between 1840 and 1940.

"We are pleased to be able to offer to the Boston and American audiences for the first time an exhibition which focuses on Irish painting, and to cast the paintings in a much broader context than ever before," said Assoc. Prof. Nancy Netzer (Fine Arts), the Art Museum director, who described the collection as "one of the most outstanding and extensive in the United States."

Burns, who has been building the collection for some 25 years, sees these works as integral to an understanding of the Irish people, their history and culture. The works were created by artists who were either Irish natives, or who produced a significant body of work in Ireland, and generally depict Irish subjects, including landscapes, individual or group portraits, interiors, genre scenes and still lifes.

"In my judgment, Irish-Americans - if not all Americans - will be quietly astonished by the depth, breadth and brilliance of the magnificent tapestry bequeathed to us by our artistic ancestors," Burns said. "Although lately discovered, Irish art is rich and fascinating and a fundamental part of our cultural birthright."

Since relatively few American museums have mounted shows of Irish art, added Irish Studies Program Co-director Prof. Adele Dalsimer (English), "Americans have had little opportunity to view the work of Irish artists in their national context. Comprehensive collections like Mr. Burns' raise awareness of cultural artifacts and he should be congratulated for the leadership role he has played in collecting and preserving Ireland's cultural heritage. In this capacity, he has demonstrated social and cultural responsibility toward Ireland."

In addition, "America's Eye" explores questions about Irish art within an interdisciplinary context, demonstrating the powerful and evolving role of the diaspora in Ireland and America.

The evolution of this collection, from the early 1970s to the present, mirrors an important shift in Ireland's cultural self-definition, notes Dalsimer; from an inward-looking, post-colonial country preoccupied with issues of nationalism to an outward-looking participant in the international community.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Irish Studies Program and Museum of Art will host a day-long symposium on Saturday, April 13, titled "Irish America." The symposium will address questions concerning the Irish-American experience, including such topics as Irish America and the Catholic Church, the politics of Irish America, immigration in the past and present, the role of the Irish language in the Irish-American community and an analysis of Irish-American fiction and drama.

Following the exhibition on campus, "America's Eye" will travel to Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery in Dublin, where it will be opened by Irish President Mary Robinson on June 26 and remain on display through the end of August.

- S.H.

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