‘In the Lion’s Den: Daniel Macdonald, Ireland and Empire’ opens at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

'In the Lion’s Den' - Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum
Grace Brady, Executive Director for Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Artist Brian Tolle and Curator Niamh O’Sullivan, from left, (Autumn Driscoll / Quinnipiac University)

New exhibition, ‘In the Lion’s Den: Daniel Macdonald, Ireland and Empire,’ opens at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut

More than 70 people gathered at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University on Jan 19th to attend the opening night reception for the new exhibition “In the Lion’s Den: Daniel Macdonald, Ireland and Empire.”

This exhibition, the first of its kind in the United States and the most comprehensive ever mounted, reevaluates the undeservedly forgotten 19th-century Irish artist, Daniel Macdonald (1820-1853).

“Macdonald holds the distinction of having produced the only known painting of the Great Hunger,” said Grace Brady, executive director of the museum. “We anticipate a great response from visitors both here and abroad.”

The centerpiece of the exhibition, Macdonald’s “An Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of their Store” (1847), is crossing the Atlantic for the first time, according to Niamh O’Sullivan, the museum’s curator.

“This painting, which is displayed in the National Folklore Collection at University College Dublin, and others, will highlight the lack of famine art and reveal how artists told the story of the worst demographic catastrophe of 19th-century Europe by other pictorial means,” O’Sullivan added.

Macdonald made his debut as an artist at the age of 13. Less than 20 years later, he was dead. But in that short time, he produced an impressive number of works of striking originality, insight and skill. The exhibition will consist of 21 paintings and sketches borrowed from major museums and institutions in Ireland, as well as private collectors, in addition to two works that are part of the museum’s permanent collection.

“In the Lion’s Den” is an important landmark in Irish and Irish-American cultural and social history and will expand knowledge of themes relating to life in 19th-century Ireland.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book by O’Sullivan, which presents exciting new research on Macdonald. The book is available online and at the museum and is being distributed in Ireland by Cork University Press.

The museum received a $16,867 grant for the exhibition from Connecticut Humanities, a nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which supports cultural and historic organizations that tell the state’s stories, build community and enrich lives.

The exhibition will run through April 17.

More about Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum

The mission of Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum is to collect, preserve, exhibit and study art, artifacts and literature relating to the Irish Famine and Great Hunger from 1845-1852. The museum educates audiences of all ages about the underlying political, social, economic and historic causes to the Great Hunger and the magnitude of the disaster. The museum contains the world’s largest collection of Great Hunger-related art by noted contemporary Irish and Irish-American artists, as well as a number of period paintings by some of Ireland’s most important 19th-century artists.

The museum, located at 3011 Whitney Ave. in Connecticut, is open Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sundays, from 1-5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, please visit www.ighm.org.

More about Quinnipiac University

Quinnipiac is a private, coeducational, nonsectarian institution located in Connecticut, 90 minutes north of New York City and two hours from Boston. The university enrolls 6,784 full-time undergraduate and 2,884 graduate and part-time students in 58 undergraduate and more than 20 graduate programs of study in its School of Business and Engineering, School of Communications, School of Education, School of Health Sciences, School of Law, Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, School of Nursing and College of Arts and Sciences. Quinnipiac consistently ranks among the top regional universities in the North in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s “Best Colleges” issue.

Quinnipiac also is recognized in Princeton Review’s “The Best 380 Colleges.” The Chronicle of Higher Education has named Quinnipiac among the “Great Colleges to Work For.” For more information, please visit www.quinnipiac.edu. Connect with Quinnipiac on Facebook at www.facebook.com/quinnipiacuniversity and follow Quinnipiac on Twitter @QuinnipiacU.

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