Who Do We Say We Are? Irish Art 1922 | 2022

Feb 5, 2022 - May 14, 2022 | Snite Museum of Art


Lily Williams (Irish, 1874–1940), Hibernia, 1916, pastel, 32 x 23 inches (frame). The O'Brien Collection (detail)

Snite Museum of Art
O’Shaughnessy Galleries (East)
February 5–May 14, 2022

The Exposition d’Art Irlandais organized in conjunction with the Irish Race Congress in Paris in 1922 used culture as a signifier of Ireland’s distinctive character worthy of the independence from the United Kingdom it had just negotiated in the Anglo-Irish Treaty. As part of the Irish government’s Decade of Centenaries commemorations, the Snite Museum partners with Notre Dame's Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the O’Brien Collection in Chicago to present an exhibition examining the use of art as a nation-building tool, asking “If we were to organize a similar exhibition today, who might be included and what themes continue to resonate?”

Paintings from the O’Brien Collection by Seán Keating, Jack B. Yeats and Paul Henry are juxtaposed with contemporary artists Patrick Graham, Hughie O’Donoghue, and Diana Copperwhite, among others to explore issues of national identity rooted in the diaspora and landscape. Expanding into the realm of photography, the rural landscapes of Amelia Stein, RHA, describe epic legends and folkloric memories that reveal history and evolving culture. An “In Dialogue” presentation of the Snite Museum’s recent acquisition of a painting by Walter Osborne, At the Breakfast Table (1894), rounds out the discussion of home and homecoming.

The exhibition is accompanied by an album of musical compositions, some recreating the music performed in 1922 as part of the Irish Race Congress in Paris and others newly written and recorded in response to the art on display. Experienced in tandem, the art, music (and poetry) work together to offer valuable and nuanced insights into each other and to the theme of national identity. The musicians and composers contributing to this project include Liz Carroll, Marty Fahey, The Seamus Egan Project, The Goodman Trio, Liz Knowles, Màiri Chambeuil, and Damien and Colman Connolly.

This exhibition is made possible through the support of the Kathleen and Richard Champlin Endowment for Traveling Exhibitions, the Milly and Fritz Kaeser Endowment for Photography, and the Irish Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Decade of Centenaries Programme.