BC’s Iconic, Masterfully Restored Eagle Centerpiece of Exhibition:
BOSTON COLLEGE McMULLEN MUSEUM PRESENTS
Eaglemania: Collecting Japanese Art in Gilded Age America
February 11–June 2, 2019
Also on Display: Cuenca: City of Spanish Abstraction
CHESTNUT HILL, MA (December 2018) — The McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College will present Eaglemania: Collecting Japanese Art in Gilded Age America, which celebrates and contextualizes Boston College’s iconic “golden eagle”: a monumental bronze sculpture of the University’s mascot.
During its recent restoration, the sculpture was revealed to be a Japanese masterpiece from the Meiji period (1868–1912), according to exhibition organizers. The restored piece will be unveiled as the centerpiece of the exhibition, which will explore Meiji bronze production, the depiction of birds of prey in Japanese art, and the fascination of late nineteenth-century Americans—and Boston Brahmins in particular—with Japanese art and culture. The exclusive exhibition will be on display in the Daley Family Gallery of the McMullen Museum from February 11 to June 2, 2019.
“The McMullen Museum is pleased to celebrate the painstaking restoration and research that recently revealed the artistic significance of a virtually lost monumental bronze masterpiece from Japan’s Meiji period,” said McMullen Museum Director and Professor of Art History Nancy Netzer. “The exhibition and accompanying scholarly volume contextualize the history of Boston College’s eagle sculpture and the argument for its probable attribution to the circle of master artist Suzuki Chōkichi (1848–1919) with an array of magnificent loans, many of which have never been displayed publicly in New England.”
The original eagle was donated to Boston College in the 1950s by the estate of diplomat and collector Larz Anderson (1866–1937) and his wife, Isabel (1876–1948). Its conservation drew attention to the eagle’s significant fine detail, careful modeling of form, and excellence of material construction, inspiring scholars’ desire to understand its origins. The exhibition and catalogue situate the Boston College eagle in Japanese art history.
An exhibition in the Museum’s Monan Gallery—titled Cuenca: City of Spanish Abstraction—also will be on display during this period. The McMullen is the first American museum to offer a retrospective of the founding of the renowned Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca, Spain. The exhibition comprises rarely exhibited works on paper by fourteen leading Spanish abstract artists. [More below.]
Eaglemania: Collecting Japanese Art in Gilded Age America
The exhibition centerpiece—a 340-pound bronze sculpture—spent the first half of the twentieth century in the Andersons’ Japanese garden in Brookline, Massachusetts. After its donation to Boston College in the mid-1950s, it was fully gilded. Weathered over nearly four decades, a replica was recast to take its place outdoors and the original went into storage in the 1990s. That replica presides over campus atop a thirty-four-foot granite column in front of Gasson Hall on the University’s Chestnut Hill Campus.
A new assessment of the original work deemed it worthy of restoration, a process that began in July 2017, and involved careful study, reconstruction, and repatination to return the sculpture to its nineteenth-century appearance. As a work of art and social history, the eagle sparked a host of questions that resulted in this project. In its restored glory, it presides over the exhibition, the galleries inspired by the many themes that emerged in the course of research.
Though its authorship is unknown, “one name looms large,” according to the introduction in the accompanying catalogue: imperial court artist Suzuki Chōkichi, “perhaps Japan’s best known metals artist, who famously exhibited hawks and eagles in international arts competitions.”
The exhibition comprises bronze, silver, and ivory sculptures of birds of prey, folding screens, scroll paintings, netsuke, lacquerware, ceramics, and textiles, which join to bring the history of the stunning Boston College eagle to life. Subjects explored include: the cultural and thematic roots for images of hawks and eagles in the Edo period (1615–1868); Japanese commoner appropriation and adaptation of raptor imagery in prints, netsuke, and folding screens; the practice of the elite samurai sport of hawking; the Andersons as American collectors of Meiji-era art; international world’s fairs as venues for foreigners to buy Japanese art and Japanese artists’ adaptation to that market; and the role of the monumental eagles, executed at the highest level of Japanese artistry, as a dialogue on nationhood between Japan and America.
Featuring nearly one hundred objects, Eaglemania includes works from the Larz Anderson Auto Museum; John J. Burns Library and McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College; Mead Art Museum, Amherst College; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Smith College Museum of Art; the Society of the Cincinnati; and the Billingsley Company and other private collections.
[MEDIA NOTE: A selection of press images is available at https://goo.gl/Ra2Hcu (see included document for captions). Please email Kate Shugert with questions. Slideshow of images, more exhibition details here.]
Exhibition Curators, Supporters, and Accompanying Catalogue
The exhibition is curated by McMullen Museum Assistant Director Diana Larsen and Victoria Weston, an associate professor of art at UMass Boston, who edited the catalogue. Its essays feature new research by Weston and Larsen as well as scholars Rory Browne, Joe Earle, Yuiko Hotta, Hae Yeun Kim, Tomoko Nagakura, and an analysis of the eagle’s conservation by Rika Smith McNally & Associates and Skylight Studios, Inc.
“Eaglemania celebrates the recent restoration of the Japanese bronze eagle that sat atop a column outside Boston College’s Gasson Hall from 1954 until 1993. The subsequent restoration replicating its authentic Meiji-period colors has fully revealed the eagle’s quality,” according to Larsen. “It was thrilling to witness the transformation of this superb work of art over the past two years. We have been able to bring together a wide range of works from both public and private collections to contextualize our eagle and explore its local provenance and how it typified the taste of Gilded Age American collectors for all things Japanese,” she added.
“Boston College’s magnificent eagle is the nucleus for a grand art historical exploration in Eaglemania. Establishing the sculpture’s likely authorship, its style, the meaning of its subject, and the context and meanings of its specific period is a singular opportunity,” adds Weston. “When we understood that we had a superb Japanese bronze, our first thought was to canvas the Northeast for other eagles of similar quality, period, and size. To gather so many in one exhibition is a breathtaking possibility for the McMullen Museum.”
Organized by the McMullen Museum of Art, Eaglemania has been underwritten by Boston College with major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum and Peter and Leslie Ciampi.
Concurrent Exhibition: Cuenca: City of Spanish Abstraction
Works on paper by fourteen leading Spanish abstract artists will be displayed in Cuenca: City of Spanish Abstraction, which examines many of the first artists associated with the now-renowned Museo de Arte Abstracto Español. Founded in Cuenca, Spain by Fernando Zóbel in the 1960s during the repressive regime of General Francisco Franco, the Museo became a literal refuge for artists seeking an environment of collaboration and innovation. Perched in the “hanging houses” of the medieval city, the Museo supported resistance against the current cultural and political climate, providing artists practicing abstraction with workshops to create prints and galleries in which to display them.
“It is an honor to work with the Fundación Juan March to be the first museum in America to offer a retrospective look at the genius behind the founding of the Museo de Arte Abstracto Español in Cuenca and to pay tribute to the outstanding work born of collaboration among the earliest abstract artists associated with the city,” Netzer said.
Featured are works by artists Fernando Zóbel, Gustavo Torner, Gerardo Rueda, Eusebio Sempere, Eduardo Chillida, Manuel Millares, Antoni Tàpies, Antonio Saura, José Guerrero, Manuel Hernández Mompó, Joan Hernández Pijuan, Pablo Palazuelo, Jordi Teixidor, and José María Yturralde.
The rarely exhibited prints, etchings, lithographs, artists’ books, and serigraphs in Cuenca highlight Spanish abstraction’s embrace of a medium in danger of disappearance due to the lack of financial and cultural support for the arts under the Franco dictatorship. The Museo’s collection, donated to the Fundación Juan March in 1981, remains a hallmark of this achievement.
“These prints and lithographs are all but unknown in the United States,” said curator Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta, a part-time faculty member in BC’s Romance Languages and Literatures Department. “Over five decades ago, MoMA exhibited the first survey of Spanish abstract art and, in the intervening years, there has been little critical attention paid to the movement in this country. A reconsideration of these works in the post-Franco era will shed new light on their political import and timeless aesthetic.”
The installation includes a video filmed in Cuenca that chronicles the Museo’s formation and the exhibition is accompanied by a publication with essays by Goizueta and Manuel Fontán del Junco, director of exhibitions, Fundación Juan March.
Organized by the McMullen Museum in conjunction with the Fundación Juan March, the exhibition has received major support from the Patrons of the McMullen Museum.
[MEDIA NOTE: A selection of press images is available at https://goo.gl/Z8KxzK (see included document for captions). Please email Kate Shugert with questions. Slideshow of images, more exhibition details here.]
Accompanying Free, Public Events
Free public programming is planned. For more information, and to sign up for those events that require advance registration (as indicated below), please visit the McMullen Museum Events Calendar. More events will be added leading up to the exhibitions; visit the website and subscribe to the McMullen mailing list for programming updates.
Walk + Talk with the Curators of Eaglemania: Collecting Japanese Art in Gilded Age America:Friday, February 22, 2019, 12:15–1:15 p.m.
Register in advance on Museum’s website
Join the curators for an informal tour and Q+A session in the Daley Family Gallery. Victoria Weston and Diana Larsen will introduce major themes of the exhibition and offer details and anecdotes on how the show came together. Visitors are welcome to ask questions along the way.
Sunday Docent Tours: Beginning February 24, 2019, 2–3 p.m. (Meet in Museum Atrium)
No prior registration is required. If you would like to schedule a separate, private tour, please contact the Museum at least two weeks in advance: 617.552.8587.
Kids and Families Workshops: 2–4 p.m. (Meet in Museum Atrium)
Register in advance on Museum’s website; seats limited
Opportunities for young children and families to engage with the Museum’s temporary exhibitions and explore themes in the works on display through a variety of activities, including: artmaking, storytelling, guided tours, games, music, and crafts.
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Saturday, May 11, 2019
Facebook Live Walk + Talk with the Curator of Cuenca: City of Spanish Abstraction,Elizabeth Thompson Goizueta: Thursday, March 28, 2019, noon
Live on McMullen Museum’s Facebook Page
Join the curator of Cuenca: City of Spanish Abstraction for an informal tour. Goizueta will introduce major exhibition themes and offer details on the city, its artists, and their methods.
Into the Collection
These events offer visitors a chance to view and learn more about objects from the McMullen Museum’s permanent collection that are rarely on display. They may learn from Museum staff, ask questions, and share their own knowledge and observations. Events include:
Into the Collection: Early Twentieth-Century Sculpture; Sunday, March 31, 2019, 3–4 p.m.
Museum staff will present on early twentieth-century sculpture, including pieces by Cuban artist Roberto Estopiñán and Polish American sculptor Elie Nadelman.
Into the Collection: Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century French and Italian Fans; Saturday, May 4, 2019, 3–4 p.m.
Museum staff will present on French and Italian fans from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Museum Current Lecture by Stephanie Leone: “A ‘Raphael’ in Nineteenth-Century Boston: The Biography of the McMullen Museum’s Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist”; Thursday, April 4, 2019, 6–7 p.m.
Register in advance on Museum’s website; seats limited
How could an educated Bostonian have purchased an original Raphael in 1866? In this presentation, which focuses on recent scholarship, discoveries, and trends in museum studies, BC Associate Professor and Chair of the Art, Art History, and Film Department Stephanie Leone will present her archival research and use of anthropologist Igor Kopytoff’s “biography of things” theory to reconstruct the history of the McMullen’s Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist. She will chart the painting’s creation in mid- to late eighteenth-century Verona by Giuseppe or Giambettino Cignaroli to its new cultural “status” as a Raphael masterpiece in the nineteenth century, its deattribution to Raphael at the end of that century, and its donation to Boston College in 1939.
McMullen Museum Spring Celebration: Sunday, April 7, 2019, noon–5 p.m.
Register in advance on Museum’s website for basket-making and egg hunt.
A spring celebration features children’s programming, music, artmaking, storytelling, and guided exhibition tours. Children may decorate their own Easter baskets and find eggs hidden on the Museum grounds while visitors of all ages can enjoy live music, games, arts and crafts, and more.
Members-Only Crash Course in History of Japanese Art with Victoria Weston: Sunday, April 7, 2019, 3:30–4:30 p.m.
Museum Members only; register in advance on Museum’s website; seats limited.
Interested in the history of Japanese art, but haven’t had the chance to take a full class in it? Join the curator of Eaglemania for an hour-long crash course in the history of Japanese art for Museum Members. (Boston College faculty, staff, and students are all automatic Museum Members.) Not a member? Join today!
McMullen Museum of Art
The McMullen Museum aims to cultivate learning, celebrate artistic excellence, explore the visual traditions of diverse cultures, and inspire transdisciplinary faculty and student research based on the visual arts. The McMullen offers exhibition-related programs and resources for diverse audiences of all ages on campus, in the Greater Boston area, and beyond.
The Museum mounts exhibitions of international scholarly importance from all periods and cultures of the history of art. In keeping with the University’s central teaching mission, exhibitions are accompanied by scholarly catalogues and related public programs. The McMullen Museum of Art was named in 1996 for the late BC benefactor, trustee, and art collector John J. McMullen and his wife Jacqueline McMullen. In 2005, the McMullen Family Foundation provided a lead gift to renovate and build an addition to the Museum’s new venue at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue. Designed in 1927 in the Roman Renaissance Revival style by architects Maginnis and Walsh, it originally served as the home of Boston’s cardinal archbishops. The renovation was completed in spring 2016 and opened to the public on September 12, 2016.
McMullen Museum Hours and Tours
Admission is free; wheelchair accessible, open to the public. Located at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02135, on BC’s 65-acre Brighton Campus. Hours during this exhibition: Monday–Wednesday and Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.. The Museum will be closed: Monday, April 15; Friday, April 19; Sunday, April 21; Monday, May 27. Contact: email@example.com, 617.552.8587. All events are free. Beginning on February 24, docent tours will be held on Sundays from 2 to 3 p.m.; no prior registration is required. Private tours are arranged upon request, with two weeks’ advance notice, by calling 617.552.8587. For directions, parking, and program information, visit www.bc.edu/artmuseum.