Thursday 5/05/2005


The Irish Art Collection of Brian P. Burns demonstrates the powerful and evolving role of the diaspora in Ireland and America. Brian P. Burns's leadership role in collecting and preserving Ireland's cultural heritage reverses older patterns of discrimination that denied his nineteenth-century ancestors the opportunities of his generation. The trajectory of emigrants who initially moved from impoverished lives in their homeland to economic and social marginalization in their adopted nation culminates in Mr. Burn's success in America and his expression of social and cultural responsibility toward Ireland. His art collection attests to the way in which the visual arts, too often viewed as irrelevant to the lives of ordinary Irish men and women, can help uncover their history.

The works in this collection, produced in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries, are designated Irish for a variety of reasons. Most frequently their creators were Irish-born, but some, Erskine Nichol or H. Robertson Craig, for example, were foreign-born painters who produced considerable work in Ireland. The paintings generally depict Irish subjects -- landscapes, individual or group portraits, interiors, genre scenes, still lifes -- but several Irish artists like Frank O'Meara, Roderic O'Conor, and John Lavery, chose settings in Paris, Brittany, Antwerp, or even Tangiers.

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