US exhibition of work by 19th century Cork artist MacDonald

Des O’Sullivan reviews a forthcoming show of work by the artist who was brave enough to paint the Famine. 

The Cork artist Daniel MacDonald is the focus of a landmark exhibition at Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum in the US from January 20 to April 17.

In a catalogue note, the museum, at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, says MacDonald was the only Irish artist audacious enough to paint the Famine while it was happening.

His painting, ‘An Irish Peasant Family Discovering the Blight of their Store’, was displayed in London in 1847. The exhibition entitled ‘Into the Lion’s Den: Daniel MacDonald, Ireland and Empire’ is a landmark in Irish and Irish-American cultural and social history. It will be the first of its kind in the US.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, which acquired James Mahony’s 1842 painting of the consecration of St Mary’s, Pope’s Quay, Cork at a Whyte’s auction in Dublin last September, is home to the world’s largest collection of art related to the Great Hunger.

There is work by contemporary artists and a collection of 19th century paintings by some of the most important artists of the period.

In the 19th century Daniel MacDonald lived with his parents in St Patrick St, Cork. He exhibited a number of pictures at the RHA from 1942 to 1944 and painted a portrait of Fr Matthew.

He moved to London in the mid-1840s and exhibited at the British Institution in 1847 and again from 1849 to 1851. MacDonald favoured genre and peasant scenes such as his Bowling Match at Castlemary in the Crawford.

His work is in the Crawford Gallery in Cork, the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin and the British Museum. He died in 1853 aged just 32.

The exhibition is curated by Niamh O’Sullivan.


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