Boston College Annual Report 2003

Charles S. and Isabella V. McMullen Museum of Art

.The desperation of the newly homeless mother seemed to reach right out of Robert G. Kelly’s 1848 painting and claw at passersby. The work, “An Ejectment in Ireland,” was part of the recent “Éire/Land” exhibit at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art, a University treasure nestled alongside the Office of Undergraduate Admission in Devlin Hall.

In “Ejectment,” dark clouds hover ominously over soldiers forcing a family from its land. A priest in clerical collar, wearing an expression of hopelessness, demonstrates the Church’s powerlessness against British rule. The painting is a highly political sample from the diverse exhibition, which traced the importance of land in Irish history from medieval times to today.

Along with Kelly’s painting, “Éire/Land” featured medieval manuscripts, antique maps, newspaper illustrations, and numerous landscapes—some lush and green and others notably barren. Contemporary works included Peter Brooke’s expansive vertical landscape “Foidin Mearaidhe” (1999) and Kathy Herbert’s “Absent” (1996), in which eight spare black-and-white photos are placed above a neat row of beat-up boots set in cement and scrim.

The McMullen Museum welcomes art lovers from around the world, students, and casual visitors to its exhibitions, which most notably have included a show of rarely seen work by Caravaggio in 1999 and the acclaimed Edvard Munch survey in 2001. The museum, which opened in its current space in 1993 and which houses an impressive permanent collection, underscores Boston College’s dedication to providing students and the community at large with inspiration through the arts.

Many McMullen exhibits, including “Éire/Land,” have received national media attention, including reviews in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and feature spots on CBS News Sunday Morning. The Munch exhibit, which was the largest U.S. exhibit of his work in half a century, attracted particular interest, drawing visitors who otherwise might not have discovered Boston College.

. “Aware of the strong positive reception BC’s McMullen Museum has received, we wanted to help galvanize support to advance the museum’s mission. The museum is an institution in ascent. It has already established a position for itself as a distinguished intellectual and cultural center, and we want to see this ascent continue.” JOHN J. AND JACQUELINE MC MULLEN P’81

Nancy Netzer, director of the McMullen Museum and professor of fine arts, explains that a university museum is uniquely positioned to tap the wealth of knowledge that resides in the school’s faculty. “The museum harnesses the expertise of a large and extraordinary group of world-class scholars to ask new questions of our collective historical and contemporary visual culture,” she says.

The McMullen was perfectly positioned to stage “Éire/Land.” “Such an interdisciplinary exhibition could only be organized at a university like BC with a strong Irish studies program,” says Netzer. The exhibit catalog includes essays not only from fine arts professors but also from history and English professors. “Professors from many different disciplines addressed the question of how images reveal attitudes toward and about the contested possession of the Irish land,” she says.

Visitors to the McMullen Museum’s ambitious exhibits will soon enjoy an improved museum, thanks to John J. and Jacqueline McMullen P’81 and the McMullen Foundation. These art collectors and patrons, who originally funded the museum that bears his parents’ names, recently pledged another $6 million to expand the building. Expect changes in space, not philosophy. “The McMullen Museum of Art brings to the BC community exhibitions of international importance that break new ground,” says Netzer. Though the building may change, that mission, no doubt, will not.

Photo at top of page: “Éire/Land” at the McMullen Museum of Art.

Inset photo: John J. McMullen.

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